The patent battle between Apple and Samsung caught major news attention. While a lot of them supported Samsung claiming Apple was hampering the pace of innovation by means of patent and IP violation which fundamentally restricts consumer choices, there is an other side of the story that is worth reading that can highlight why copying actually kills innovation.
It is very difficult and vague to define what is an innovation. Also in the software arena , it is complex enough for every one to agree what forms a legal patent these days. Gone are the days when it was considered shameful by big companies to copy their competitor’s product as such.
Rip it off feature by feature
Now the scenario has changed. All big tech companies right from Google to Facebook copy feature by feature from so many products that are passionately worked upon by small start-ups or mobile app developers.
Facebook now recently and without any shame built a mobile app called ‘Poke’,very similar to another existing product called ‘SnapChat’.What is more important is that Facebook proudly proclaiming that they were able to develop the application from scratch in flat 12 days.
Google is also rumored to have copied their popular Google Plus ‘Hang Out’ feature from some another product CamUp and the patent violation case seems to be in the offing. Facebook recently updated ‘Messenger’ app to work without any Facebook account, a feature that was introduced by WhatsApp.
Google in its recent Android 4.2 release included the ‘Swype’ like keyboard feature which was a popular mobile app previously. Now with Google bringing feature into the OS, the company needs to realign their strategies and think twice before developing a product that could be potentially sucked right into the OS.
Alarming Trend of ‘Let me Buy or Die’
The growing trend for big companies is whenever any good idea or product comes out , immediate plan is to acquire the company. If it is not possible to buy,just do a blatant rip off of the same product paving way thereby killing the USP of the product and the start-up as well.
This is pretty alarming! There is only one option left for the start-up – either sell the company or be prepared to fight the biggies and lose the battle. Dodgeball , a geo location-based start-up was bought by Google. But the founders were not given enough resources to improve the product.Hence the founders had to come out and build a new product called ‘FourSquare’ the way they wanted it to be. This is one-off product that proved to be successful even after coming out of a big company.
Mobile App developers would find this trend disturbing. One day you have built a killer app with all hard work,dedication and passion.As you are about to reap big returns, some big company tries to buy you out or build a similar product that will make all of your hard work going unnoticed .Cases like this make it really hard for start-ups and innovators to dedicate their life to building a true world-class product.
Though it is true that some patents related cases are filed by some small companies just for the sake of it, to extort money from the bigger companies,in most of the cases , it is these startups that are actually impacted in the bigger picture.Hence it is very important for start-ups and mobile app developers about how they plan to build the product so as to prevent themselves from being sucked by the companies with big money.