Dear Apple: Get Back to Work

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You’ve no doubt heard by now that Apple came up short of expectations. Realistically, it isn’t as big of a deal as analysts and investors are making it out to be. But the iconic innovator has bigger problems than iPhone sales. It’s too busy being king of the mountain, while forgetting what got it there in the first place.

Throwing sand in competitors’ eyes

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is really pissed. One of its biggest rivals recently took over as number one smart phone purveyor.

How could they do that?! The nerve of those people!

"Those people" is Samsung (OTC: SSNLF.PK). I understand the need to stay competitive, but Apple needs to keep in mind why it was so successful in the first place, instead of tying Samsung’s shoelaces together when it isn’t looking.

In what could be the most middle-school way ever of admitting defeat, Apple said that Samsung cheated its way to becoming the biggest smart phone company by volume. Really, Apple? They cheated their way there? What’s next … did Samsung copy your science project, too?

Oh wait, that’s exactly what Apple claims.

Apple invented a geometric shape

According to Tim Cook’s legion of lawyers, Samsung copied the design of the iPhone and iPad in creating its own devices.

Without getting too caught up in a theoretical discussion, I’d like to lay Apple’s claim to rest.

As tablets and smart phones rose to the top of consumer electronic greatness, it was a race to see who could make the best, most well-designed product first. I think Apple won that game hands down, but that doesn’t mean they own the concepts. Ergonomically, smart phones and tablets need to be rectangular. Circles just don’t make sense. We need to be able to hold a smart phone with one hand, because it’s still a phone, and needs to be convenient.

Basically, Apple is arguing that Samsung stole its novel idea of a rectangle. If you can prove in court that you invented the rectangle, Apple, then I think you deserve global supremacy. But, as the Bay-area court will likely realize, it’s a tough argument to claim rights over geometry.

In that case, maybe Greek philosopher and mathematician Euclid should be suing you for stealing his material. I hear he needs the cash.

Everyone is guilty

Samsung has counter claims against Apple, citing a bunch of patent mumbo jumbo, and that Apple wouldn’t have sold one iPhone without Samsung.

Let’s get something straight here: You all copied each other, so shut up. There's no single company that came up with every bit of technology available on the market today. It just didn’t happen. We all know that Al Gore invented the Internet, anyway. So instead of pointing fingers at each other, just keep making great stuff, and sell it to us -- we will buy all of it, I promise.

Get back to work

I doubt that the lawyers you hired are working pro bono, unless that means that they listen to U2. With the $110 billion in cash that you’re making into paper airplanes and flying over to law firms, why don’t you, instead, let Samsung enjoy its holiday in the sun, and get back to business. You’re the most innovative company on the planet, Apple. I have a hard time believing there's nothing better to do with your money than send the families of Morrison and Foerster LLP to Cabo.

And Samsung, the same goes for you. You guys make every TV ever, so why are you squabbling about patents? I really need a 65” LCD for $100, so please figure out how to make that happen.

These companies are suffering from seriously dumb cases of a God-complex. And, in the meantime, sales are down, and Wall Street analysts are angry.

Apple, get out of the courtroom, and go back to your underground lair full of PhDs. They’re getting hungry.

You’re wasting our time and our money.

I have been hard on Apple here. However, in this brand new premium report on Apple, our analyst takes a more balanced approach, and acknowledges the strengths of the company, as well as some of the challenges it will face over the coming year. Better yet, it comes with a full year of updates included, so click here to learn more.

Fool contributor Michael Lewis owns none of the stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @mikeylewy. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (26) | Recommend This Article (45)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 26, 2012, at 10:53 PM, Thompr97 wrote:

    Apple is working plenty hard enough, thank you. They are capable of letting the engineers do their engineering and the lawyers do their lawyering... simultaneously! (Gasp!)

    Meanwhile, in case you didn't notice, Apple has plenty of money and time to defend their patents and their brand (a pretty important thing that Samsung would just love to hitch a ride on).

    And, by the way, the fact that Samsung's tablet happens to be the same shape is only ONE facet amongst numerous similarities. Apple is not pissed because of EACH similarity on its own, but rather the fact that there is a big fat "AND" there. Right down to the icon designs, colors, and positions. Even the retail packaging has been copied. (And NO, I don't mean the shape of the box, you knucklehead!) Other mobile device makers managed to make their tablets and phones without using Apple gear as a design goal.

    And your argument that they all copy each other is shallow. Perhaps if Samsung asked for the same amount for their FRAND patents from Apple that everyone else is asked to pay, that would be good. (Fair. Reasonable. And. Non. Discriminatory.)


  • Report this Comment On July 27, 2012, at 2:56 PM, DrDeVito wrote:

    Ha great article. Great for a slow Friday afternoon. Agree with the premise of it too: Lawyers primary job is to waste peoples money.

  • Report this Comment On July 27, 2012, at 4:18 PM, XMFMadMardigan wrote:

    Thompson, I agree with you on many of your points. And I dont think Apple should let others steal what they worked hard to create.

    In a light-hearted way, I was trying to say that Apple is an incredible company and has the capacity to do things no other firm on the planet can do. That being the case, I dont like reading every day about Apple's lawsuits in every country trying to keep a George Lucas-esque grip on its IP.

    Apple should let other companies spend their time catching up and trying to replicate their products, and in the meantime, come up with something even better. Thats what being King of the Mountain is all about.

  • Report this Comment On July 27, 2012, at 8:22 PM, ajaykc wrote:

    This is a great article. Apple keeps suing other while they can't even create a name for their product. iPad name was kinda stolen. Stealing is the best innovation that no one knows better than Apple. Apple didn't make phones until 2007 so how come they suddenly learnt to make a phone. Buy others phones and break them, learn them, then reverse engineer them. Tell me if I am wrong?

  • Report this Comment On July 28, 2012, at 4:29 PM, aenemated wrote:

    Say what? Do you recall what practically all phones were BEFORE iPhone?

    A handy reference:

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2012, at 6:06 PM, mieswall wrote:

    So, it is is just that simple. Let Ive and folks at Apple spend countless hours refining their designs, for Samsung an other to copycat it in months once it proves successful (that is, always). Not to say a thing about engineers refining the O.S.:

    - Do you knew a computer with a mouse before Macintosh? (don't tell me Xerox, that was an hobbyst experiment, at most).

    - An S.O. with windows, trash, menus, proportional fonts, before Mac OS?

    - A massive, successful, or in fact, just user-friendly implementation of Unix before OSX?

    - A minimal portable music artifact before ipods?

    - A phone without keyboard before iPhone?

    - A pad without pencils, just fingers-managed before iPad?

    - Do you remember how Balmer laughed at the first iPhone, promising it wouldn't sell a thing?

    - In fact, do you know a phone WITH keyboard now, except the Jurassic, soon to be extinguished Blackberry?

    - Do you even knew about a simple, rectangle-like phone before iphone4? In fact, do you know any phone before it (except 3gs) not plagged of purposeless ugly curves, just aimed to be "nice" for the end-user?

    Probably you don't. Probably also nothing of the above will be now available for you if not for Apple efforts.

    That's why defending intellectual property is extremely important. Or it is just Microsoft's software what needs to be protected from piracy?

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2012, at 6:51 PM, Zankudo wrote:

    You really do not understand do you. Patents are intellectual property. You can't just steal one and change it slightly and use it. So just let the lawyers and judge and jury sort it out. Meanwhile get off your high horse. You might fall.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2012, at 9:42 PM, CMFSoloFool wrote:

    Michael, I get the humor, but I find the idea rather startling and, well, ideological and unrealistic.

    The iPhone was indeed a revolution in the mobile smart phone industry, in its simple elegance, the use of touch gestures, the ease of use, its intuitive interface, the app engine, etc. The whole package put it way ahead of anything else at that time. Apple did the R&D, took all the risk, and created something out of instinct and passion, which the world fell in love with. Why should anyone be allowed to copy it for free?

    You hit the nail on the head, Apple did win the race to create the most well designed phone. But it is not the concepts Apple is trying to protect, rather it is the specific style and application of behaviors, presentation, layout, interface, look and feel, which combined are the essence of their research, their hard work, and their intellect.

    A simple case - slide to unlock. There are plenty of ways to unlock, but Apple used a sliding switch concept, and the same slide-switch design is consistently used throughout the interface to toggle settings. There are also the translucent position indicators in a scrollable page that appear briefly while you touch the screen to visually convey vertical or horizontal position on the page as you scroll. And so on. All of them together make up the theme and contribute to the way the phone behaves, making it more intuitive, easier to learn and use, and more functional.

    Although there are lots of different ways to implement such an interface, Android copied them almost verbatim down to the size, look, feel and behavior. So Apple took all the risk and spent their R&D to develop and establish these things, and Android gets to copy them verbatim, at no cost, and markets them for free.

    You want a Picasso, buy a Picasso, you want a Rembrandt, buy a Rembrandt. But don't copy the Picasso verbatim and sell it as a Picasso right under Picasso's nose.

    By the way, FRAND patents are general use standards, such as WiFi, 3G, 4G, etc. which are deemed necessary to ensure interoperability and compatibiity. They cannot be used to block or discriminate against competitors. They are totally different from specific application patents such as a GUI touch interface.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2012, at 11:06 PM, dsp444 wrote:

    "But don't copy the Picasso verbatim and sell it as a Picasso right under Picasso's nose. "

    But that's not what is going on. The Picasso is being copied and sold as a Bob. Everybody knows the Samsung is not the iPhone...your comparison is a misrepresentation.

    I would be willing to bet you would swear up and down that an iPhone is better than an Android one, right? So how again is it a "verbatim" copy?

    We all get what you are saying FoolSolo, but I think you have to get over it. No doubt Apple broke the mold...but you can't expect nobody to follow. "look and feel", "more intuitive", etc is not patentable. Specific technology is.

  • Report this Comment On July 30, 2012, at 11:33 PM, rlcato wrote:

    Apple is going after Google Android THROUGH Samsung -the 2nd best provider (or user) of Android OS. All the the others aren't worth it. Doing this scares other similar companies from copying similarities -the 'follow-the-leader' mentality. Notice, there aren't too many icon encrusted smart phones on the market from large companies. The latest Samsung SIII was designed by lawyers, did you know? Lawyers aren't cool!

    Sure Apple is #2; they can live with that but I'm sure it does not pisses them off -with their 3 models of phones. When was the last time you heard of a price reduction of iPhones or buy-one, get a 2nd (lesser) one (blah, blah, blah). The providers are toning down their iPhone ads to move those other 'lesser' phones.

    Now Android is free to develop ANY way fit so why is it Samsung have to duplicate the general shape, icons, and behaviours of an earlier competitor? HTC suddenly chose to go a more different rout. Moto went a different rout. LG too. The list goes on. See how well those are selling in the various different styles? But you may also notice many of these duplicate phones are stuck on v3.2 -including Samsung's lesser models.

    So to say "Apple, get back to work" when many other companies are using a free OS and waiting for improvements to advance to the next stage is ludicrous so why are you reading these lawsuits? You should know by now as to 'why' and look more into the reason. You're doing yourself, and your readers, a disservice link-baiting unrelated Fool fluff.

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 12:00 AM, IdiotProof101 wrote:

    When I saw the headline, I thought that the commentary was going to be about Mac OS X Mountain Lion. I went to upgrade today and found that that the latest incarnation of the operating system now makes the laptop an extension of the iPhone-iPad-iOS-gaming-social networking-time wasting-always available-always visible-constantly interrupted-can't function without a full time high speed internet connection experience. Just when their penetration of the workplace market was beginning to accelerate, Apple decided to self-identify 100% with the label of "consumer electronics company." Sadly, Mountain Lion is a big step back for any aspirations they might have had to dominate the workplace. I wish they would get back to work thinking about the workplace.

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 12:54 AM, SaraW946 wrote:

    There are so many factual errors in this article that it is reasonable to conclude that the author's conclusions are shaky at best, given that his premises are false. Disclaimer: I'm not an Apple fangirl, although I am an Apple user and I'm not above buying stocks of Apple competitors. So let's look at the errors:

    1) "Apple came short of expectations": meh, not really. Apple has had phenomenal earnings, beyond what the company had projected. It's Wall Street which, once again, decided that they were not enough, even though most other companies would kill for them. As I was reading various gloating articles in the past week, I couldn't help but think of the unforgiving public that wants gold gold gold in the Olympics and the occasional silver (and heaven forbid, bronze) are not good enough. The question is: why should Apple have met Wall Street's unreasonable and constructed expectations?

    2) "According to Tim Cook’s legion of lawyers, Samsung copied the design of the iPhone and iPad in creating its own devices."

    Correction: Google, the company, against which Steve Jobs wanted to go thermonuclear, and which provides Samsung with the operating system for their devices, had warned Samsung that it was copying Apple too much and strongly advised them to make changes.

    3) "In that case, maybe Greek philosopher and mathematician Euclid should be suing you for stealing his material. I hear he needs the cash."

    Yeah, I know, that's a sad attempt at humor, but please don't do it if you know zero about Euclid. It's like talking about camels taking tourists up the Acropolis of Athens in the summer, and for an educated person, it is embarrassing. So here is some information from a person who is a specialist in all things Euclid and on how his work was written and transmitted:

    Euclid's Elements was not a totally original work, and this is not how ancient Greek scholars worked, especially in the Hellenistic and Roman period. And that was OK, since intellectual property is a modern concept. The Elements were really based on the work of Euclid's predecessors, including Hippocrates of Chios, potentially Pythagoreans and others. Euclid's contribution was to create one, concise, modern reference work that was based on other people's work, and that was not a secret, nor was it considered shameful or criminal or whatever. Similarly, the Elements were edited, re-edited, and most importantly augmented throughout antiquity, the latest ancient editions being Theon's and Hypatia's in the 4th and 5th centuries AD.

    Yeah, OK, you'll say that I'm missing the point, but I really don't because I prefer arguments to be based on correct premises, and even their fillers should be correct.

    4) "We all know that Al Gore invented the Internet, anyway."

    Oh puhleeeze! When will people stop repeating this totally inaccurate urban legend that has been discounted beyond any doubt?! Al Gore was simply involved, as a member of the House of Representatives, in the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, the so-called "Gore bill." He never claimed to have created the internet which pre-existed the bill.

    We all know that Apple is at work and it's a business. It's also known that the current lawsuit policy was initiated by Jobs, and that it has some merit, or the courts would have thrown it out. I also don't get why Apple is wasting "our" time and "our" money suing. I'm sure they have good lawyers, as I'm sure there is more to the lawsuits from both sides than what consumers can really tell from reports of the popular press.

    Does Apple have weaknesses? Sure it does. Will it continue to expand as it does? Of course not, that's impossible. It would just be nice if people actually understood that before going all roller-coaster emotional about it.

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 1:26 PM, Morgana wrote:

    If people knew the difference between imitation and influence, we may not be having this argument. With influence, there is a change, a significant enough change that something NEW is produced. Artists and writers contend with this concept constantly since they study their predecessors. If I am not mistaken, there must be a percentage of change for a work to be considered new or innovative and for patents.

    I hear in this article the worst of logic, embarrassing at best, and rude. This is not good Fool etiquette. Heavens, sounds like a . . . sorry, I will keep politics out this.

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 2:51 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    Has Motley Fool figured out how to disable comments on Apple (AAPL) articles?

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 2:54 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    SaraW946, did you really just write 636 words for fun, or was that a classroom assignment piece that you are handing in? I'm sure nobody read that.

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2012, at 2:55 PM, TheRealRacc wrote:

    rlcato, I hope you were executing your MF-bashing on your handy dandy iPhone. I hate to think you as a hypocrite.

  • Report this Comment On August 01, 2012, at 1:05 AM, rlcato wrote:

    Not this time. On my 'handy dandy' iMac.

  • Report this Comment On August 02, 2012, at 5:23 PM, radarthreat wrote:

    Apple didn't invent the mp3 player, the smartphone, the touchscreen, the tablet, the mouse, the windows concept, or really anything else. Give them credit for perfecting all those things, but they certainly didn't invent them.

  • Report this Comment On August 02, 2012, at 7:08 PM, JungleGent wrote:

    @ TheRealRacc: I love your comments -- short and sweet, funny and hurtful. Your question to SaraW946 is just classic!

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2012, at 1:44 PM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    Do Etch-A-Sketch and Ipad share the same aspect ratio?

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2012, at 1:56 PM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    @ TheRealRacc: Thanks for pointing out Sara's comment. I had skipped over it until I read your review.

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2012, at 5:56 AM, francescac wrote:

    Why shoud anyone spend a single penny in Reserch and Development if he cannot defend your patents???

    Have you ever considered the cost to of developing such amazing innovations as Apple does never ending?

    How should they recover those costs if are always been stiling from others?

    Explain me that, please.

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2012, at 11:57 AM, JimmyZangwow wrote:

    Apple rants grow tiresome. Thanks Realracc for the Cliffs Notz version of saraw946's. Made the mistake of reading the first para of that - had to crack open and rapidly consume 2 red bulls to avoid system shutdown

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2012, at 8:51 PM, ghenry232 wrote:

    @dsp444, you say that Samsung's products are not Apple's products, and that in the metaphor, it's a rip-off of Picasso but not being sold as a PIcasso. But this flies in the face of evidence. Apparently as many as 25% of Samsung devices sold are returned at a particular retailer by folks who purchased them believing them to be Apple devices.

    They copied the look, the feel, the packaging, the design, even the look and feel of the marketing.

    That is designed to confuse consumers, and there is apparently strong evidence that consumers are in fact being confused and having their purchasing decisions influenced against their will.

    This is exactly the situation where the court needs to take an active role, because there is an injured party, and there is a willful infringer benefiting, and there need to be significant damages to disincentivize breaking the law and violating others' rights in the process of pursuing easy profits.

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2012, at 9:04 PM, ghenry232 wrote:

    Wow... reading the comments criticizing SaraW946 is dispiriting.

    I read Sara's comment through, before getting down to the random hating criticism.

    To the haters: If you don't have the reading level and general interest to process a comment like hers, I don't know that you should necessarily be doing your investing based on your own judgment. I would like to suggest that y'all go have that ignorant hateful circle-jerk somewhere else.

  • Report this Comment On November 24, 2012, at 11:16 PM, SaraW946 wrote:

    Wow! Just discovered the macho replies to my comment, had totally neglected to see whether there was a reply.

    To the sarcastic comments: if you have nothing productive to add to the conversation and have too short an attention span, I suggest that a) you shut your mouth and b) get enrolled in some sensitivity classes. You'll need them in the long run. I actually doubt you didn't read what I wrote because you actually bothered to count the words and would not be so silly as to draw conclusions based on the fact that a girl wrote them (why didn't you comment on the original article's length?).

    One more thing: you may want to use your brain a little because, trust me, you'll end up losing it quite young. It's a scientific fact.

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