16 August 2008

Look and feel

NPR Morning Edition: “Facebook Faceoff: German Rival Gets Poked

Facebook is suing a German site for copying Facebook’s “look and feel”.

Falzone says the line between an innovation and a copy can be blurry. But he also says that it’s important to remember that intellectual property rights are there to protect innovation.

OK. I’m with you. I don’t necessarily agree, but I understand the point.

“That’s essential to healthy competition,” Falzone said, “because it lets the person who executes the idea best win in the marketplace—and that protects a healthy, competitive marketplace.”




If you want it to be about who executes the idea best, then you don’t want intellectual property rights getting in the way of competition. Intellectual property rights are asserted to try to prevent competition from executing the idea so that you don’t have to worry about competing on execution.

Even though the “look and feel” term was popularized by Apple’s suit against Microsoft, Apple isn’t still around and doing well because they won that suit. (There was never a ruling.) It’s because of how Apple executed their ideas.

And just think of where they’d be if executed better and not made some of the big mistakes that really set them back.

“It’s not easy to do a copycat” site, Hochmuth said. “It may look like an easy thing to do, but actually growing such a copycat is just as hard as building a company that’s otherwise your own original idea.”


Yeah, the Apple engineers saw Xerox’s technology, but they had to figure out how to actually build it, make it affordable, and make it truly practical for consumers. If you think that’s easy, take a moment and give it a try.

Microsoft (as I understand it) had more access to Apple’s actual technology than Apple had to Xerox’s, but they still rebuilt it. They executed it well enough to keep Apple from taking over the market, though not well enough to make Apple superfluous.

Apple’s darkest days were when even Microsoft was executing on fundamental operating system features than Apple was.

Facebook should know that a “look and feel” lawsuit is just a waste of resources. Resources that should be concentrated on executing better than the competition.

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