OMGGGG the new iPhone 5 was announced this morning! It’s the lightest, thinnest, bestest, fastest iPhone ever. It’s got a bigger screen, it fights crime, and it even picks up after your dog! Woooooo, Steve Jobs, you will never die in our hearts and minds and souls. <3333 OK, now that that's out of the way, why do all you lawyers give a damn? The intellectual property arms race, that's why. As a Google VP mentioned in an interview earlier this week, Steve Jobs had warned us years ago about the possibility of thermonuclear IP war. Well, with the release of the new iPhone coming hot off the heels of Apple’s billion-dollar victory against Samsung, the bombs may be falling.
Or, in the words of Willem Dafoe, “There was a
fire patent fight!”
So what IP insanity has Apple perhaps helped unleash? For starters, we have those devious reverse engineering bastards in China who may have released — and patented — an iPhone 5 knockoff before the real one was even announced. This is some secret agent s**t, as we see from Businessweek:
Want to get an iPhone 5 but can’t handle the wait for the Apple (AAPL) release later this month? You might consider buying a knockoff from Goophone. This little-known Chinese company has just announced the launch of its own iPhone 5 look-alike, the Goophone I5, and says it has already patented it in China, according to Gizchina.com. It may even consider suing Apple when the Cupertino (Calif.) company starts selling its sixth-generation iPhone in China, reports the tech and gadgets website.
These shenanigans aren’t new in China. Politico mentions various Congressional hearings that have attempted to address IP enforcement in China, and the Businessweek article discusses the emerging Chinese patent troll industry. Apple just paid out $60 million in July to to settle a trademark infringement suit with a Chinese company over iPad technology.
And then we’ve got Samsung. The company, despite being taken to the cleaners last month in San Jose, actually manufactures a bunch of iPhone components. The South Korean company may be out for vengeance — or something — specifically over the LTE wireless technology Apple added to the new iPhone:
Samsung, which has been locked in a series of high-stakes patent trials with Apple, had previously threatened to sue the iPhone maker if it were to release LTE-enabled products.
After reports Monday of LTE capability on the iPhone 5, the South Korean electronics giant “has decided to take immediate legal action,” an industry source tells the Korea Times. Europe and the United States “are our primary targets,” the source said.
Now, all this may be overwhelming and make you a little nauseous, like the guy who has to eat all that weed at the beginning of Super Troopers, but that’s not all.
As the WSJ Law Blog tells us, the nuclear patent winter has spread to the fashion industry, where a yoga pants company wants to lay claim to waistbands, and Christian Louboutin wants domain over the color red on the underside of high-heeled shoes. Oh, the humanity:
Lululemon claims that Calvin Klein is selling pants that “have infringed and are still infringing” on three patents, including one for a distinctive waistband featuring overlapping panels of fabric.
Fashion designers are no strangers to intellectual property battles. Just last week, in a trademark dispute between French designers Christian Louboutin SA and Yves Saint Laurent, a federal court of appeals in New York ruled that Louboutin largely owns the exclusive right to use the color red to coat the bottoms of its high-heeled shoes.
Just like some people were surprised to learn you can patent rounded corners, Lululemon is teaching the fashion industry a similar lesson:
The fashion industry has historically sought and been granted protection for limited aspects of their products, like trademarks on logos and brand names, which are recognized as their property.
But designers haven’t had much success in protecting designs on fundamental articles of clothing, ones that might cover, say, the shape of a blouse or the cut of a collar on a shirt. Generally speaking, copyright law protects forms of art, but not items that are predominantly functional, like shirts and pants.
Lululemon is trying to chart a new path by filing and litigating patents secured on the basis of its designs.
I used to think there was nothing new under the sun. I guess it just goes to show how little I know… about elastic waistbands.
Samsung will reportedly sue Apple over LTE use on iPhone 5 [CNET]
Enter Goophone I5, Looking a Lot Like Apple’s iPhone [Businessweek]
What Apple and Yoga-Pants-Maker Lululemon Have in Common [WSJ Law Blog]