Apple stock rallied while Samsung slipped after Friday’s US court ruling that the latter must pay the former in the amount of $1.05b for patent infringement. The essence of Apple’s argument is that it holds a patent on thin rectangular devices with rounded corners (Design Patent 504,889).
- This story is sad because a company has successfully enforced a claim that it ‘invented’ rounded rectangles.
- It’s telling of how the patent system simply does not fit this century.
- It’s hopeful as it points to the future of hardware — open source hardware.
Like software, hardware has an open movement too. It’s younger and more obscure but a growing movement nonetheless. It operates on the same principles of sharing explicitly documented designs and encouraging interoperability of parts. Developers can buy cheap, generic components, build robust devices and publish schematics and firmware code.
All these ingredients (cheapness, robustness, extensibility) make a potent mix for the hardware industry. Samsung already makes use of open source software (Android). It’s a matter of time before open hardware reaches critical mass and brutally disrupts the way we manufacture, use and distribute devices.
The world may marvel at Apple’s $633b market cap, but brilliant mobile technology is only now leaving the infant stages.