The mechanics of this particular spat and the court’s ruling on it are bit too byzantine to dive into here, but it’s worth a look in broad strokes simply as an example of just how low players are willing to stoop in IP battles like the one between Apple and Samsung. So, in short: Samsung holds a patent on a feature that allows devices to read aloud text to their users with the press of a button. The company asserted that patent against Apple’s accessibility features, specifically VoiceOver which is specifically designed for anyone with impaired vision. Caught in the middle: The blind, low-vision users, folks with dyslexia and anyone else who might benefit from having what appears on their computer screen described to them out loud.
Yes, this move by Samsung against Apple was a tactical one in a nasty battle in which billions of dollars are at stake. Yes, it’s just business. But it’s ill-conceived. Even leaving aside the ethics of asserting a patent against a feature designed to help the blind, this is unwise. It’s the PR equivalent of punching yourself in the face. Samsung has now identified itself as a company willing to accept the loss of accessibility for the vision-impaired as collateral damage in its battle with Apple. It has made a big public move to make it more difficult for the blind to use computers. That’s just foolish — more so, now that the judge presiding over the case has stayed the suit. Again, this is just business and battle, but there’s a PR war being fought here, as well. And Samsung is not doing itself any favors with poorly thought-out assaults like this one.
Samsung did not respond to a request for comment. Apple declined to provide one.
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