For Apple, patent litigation is a question of brand not just business

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

4 October 2012

Apple has a right to defend its patents, but it should be careful not to look like a bully

With the release of the iPhone 5 behind it and only iPad Mini speculation to fuel the Apple buzz-o-sphere, recent tech news has filled the void with reports on the company’s patent litigation. The question Apple must ask as the spotlight grows on its muscular legal battles is whether legal actions are good for business or do they tarnish the shiny Apple brand? How will patents litigation affect them?

As Apple stock flirts with the 700 mark, the company has been dubbed the most valuable in the world. But it wasn’t always so. Before iPods, iPhones and iPads, Apple had only about a 2 percent share of the computer market.

“Apple has never been the brand of the bully. Aggressive lawsuits against competitors could change that.”

Even as an underdog, Apple cultivated its clean and simple “Think Different” brand. Rapid growth brought with it a delicate brand-balancing act that dated back to its iconic “Big Brother” 1984 Super Bowl commercial introducing the new Macintosh computer to America.

Once Apple emerged as the market leader it ceased being the underdog and reluctantly became the establishment.

Apple’s brand is so carefully crafted that legal actions against competitors could backfire. For instance, sales of Samsung phones rose sharply after Apple recently won a $1 billion lawsuit against its main competitor.

patent litigationThe Apple customer that thinks differently doesn’t react well to headlines about patent litigation brought by Apple against other companies in the market. These lawsuits may make perfect business sense, but they weaken Apple’s image.

Beyond that, the suit charged that Samsung copied the iPhone’s look and feel. As a result, the legal victory actually reinforced the belief that there was little difference between the two products. By prevailing in court, Apple damaged its brand.

Apple has never been the brand of the bully. Aggressive lawsuits against competitors could change that.

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