An Apology for a Copycat > IDEAS & IDEALS

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An Apology for a Copycat

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          Samsung of Korea and Apple of the United States are being engaged in a series of fierce legal battles over the patent rights for new products. Each has developed new but similar electronic gadgets related to mobile (smart) phones and pushed them into the market almost at the same time. Each accuses the other of having used his own technologies without permit invading his own intellectual property. It is very likely that these legal disputes will continue for considerable period of time to come all over the world where Samsung and Apple clash with their new commodities. Astronomically huge amount of money as well as the future of each company seems to be at stake on the verdict of the court.

           I know I am in no position nor entitled to say anything legal or technological for or against any party involved. But I find myself already one of the ubiquitous users of a smart phone Samsung has made and watching the progress and result of the legal contention between the two companies with special interest, attention and worry rooting silently for Samsung in spite of myself, as if it is a succor game between the two national teams of Korea and Japan.

            My my common sense, however, tells me that the point of the seemingly complicated legal contention is very clear and simple: Who has first developed the specific and particular technologies related to the smart phones and has the patent for them? In other words, who has copied or stolen and used them inappropriately? Who is the impudent and cheeky copycat? Who is the thief?

           Although each denies any wrongdoing, Samsung seems to be on the defensive, while Apple is more offensive in the case. As far as I remember, it was the late Mr. Steve Jobs who demonstrated something like the smart phones first and Samsung unveiled its own similar products a little bit later. It is probable and likely, therefore, that Samsung could have appropriated some of better aspects of Apple's models. To be more direct and frank, I cannot help but think (without any evidence or authority or responsibility) that Samsung could be a copycat in this case, as Apple maintains.

           To be more honest and modest with us Koreans ourselves in our long relationship with the United States of America, this is not the first time and the first thing we have ever copied from them. We have copied almost everything good and better from them since and after the World War II and the Korean War. They were so far ahead of us in all and everything that they have always been a super-model we have admired, imitated and copied desperately.
So many good and intelligent Korean students went to the best universities in the United States, studied and learned all the advanced and sophisticated technologies necessary, essential and indispensible to the making of our modern industrial country. They came home and made everything we have now at home and sell abroad - cars, ships, TVs, airplanes, and everything smart including the smart phones. We owe them where we are.

           Apart from the scientific knowledge and technology, we copied much more important things from the United States: Democracy - rule of law, freedom of speech and expression, respect for human rights and dignity, equality before law, division of power, fair election, peaceful transfer of government, free market and trade - all these invaluably noble ideals we now take for granted came literally from the United States, not from Russia, nor from China, nor from Japan. We copied the whole of the United States as a nation, and we are now what we are. 
           I am happy and proud of the fact that Samsung has become a strong opponent to Apple in the world. There seems to be many other minor competitors in this large and lucrative market of the smart phones today, but their presences seem to be negligible compared with the two giants. The only two companies representing Korea and the United States are participating in the electronic Olympic games of the world for the gold medal. No other teams are to be seen or heard in the arena. Where are they all? Have they all quit the game? Samsung is guaranteed a silver, if not a gold.

           Already the first round of the judicial deliberation is over: one victory for Samsung in Seoul, Korea and the other one for Apple in California, the United States. While the Korean court upheld Samsung's hand, the U.S. court ruled Samsung pay more than $1 billion to Apple. It seems very probable that each verdict has reflected patriotic sentiments of the people in favor of the company of each country. Korean court was for Samsung, and vice versa.

           To my surprise and relief, a third verdict followed immediately after for the same case in Japan ruling out the possibility of Samsung's infringement on Apple's patent rights. This is the first victory for Samsung in the venue of a third country court when the national sentiments over the Dokdo islands are hot and high between the two rival countries.

           I would like hereby hastily and optimistically to conclude that the future legal games between Samsung and Apple will result in one victory for Samsung in one event one day, and one for Apple in other event another day. What is clear and certain, I think, there would be no complete victory for one party alone once for all. I would like to think that the final results of these matches would be a draw, and a kind of modus vivendi would be achieved between the two.
                                                                                                               (September 24, 2012)


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