Apple’s product, revenue, and profit success in the past decade has been nothing short of astounding. iPod. iPhone. iPad. Stores. Mac (again). Hot on the trail of Apple’s success are the rip off artists and thieves. What is Apple doing with that $75-billion cash pile? Apparently, they’re paying lawyers and suing anyone and everyone (almost).
Patents, Clones, Stores, Oh My!
From the moment the iPhone hit the market, competing cell phone manufacturers were hard at work cloning the iPhone’s unique look and feel and underlying technology. There’s not much difference between an iPhone and some of Samsung or HTC cell phones running Android.
How did Apple respond? Lawsuits and complaints targeting manufacturers with products or technology even vaguely similar to the iPhone and iPad.
Apple is on the offensive with an onslaught of patent lawsuits against various cell phone manufacturers. So far, it’s win some, lose some, but Apple seems to have the upper hand in critical cases.
But that’s old news.
The latest is an attack by Apple Store clones attempting to cash in on Apple’s caché. First, China, then Europe, now even in the US. Even Microsoft has stores which resemble Apple’s store design and layout.
What’s going on here? Why is Apple being copied to death by competitors?
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then all these competitors merely love Apple to death. So, why is Apple suing the flatterers?
In marketing, product differentiation is key. There’s not much differentiation in the shopping experience when a complete store is cloned. The same holds true for Apple’s products. When the technology is cloned, or even the look and feel of a product is matched feature for feature, the buying public may not be able to tell the difference between Apple’s products and a competitors.
Why buy the original when a cheaper clone will do?
Apple’s recent barrage of lawsuits is designed to keep that differentiation intact and the distance between store and product competitors as far and wide as possible. Lawsuits are often a mix of offense and defense, and in defending patents and trademarks Apple is actually going on the offense to prevent cloners from having similar success in the marketplace.