It’s not even news anymore to report that yesterday, the world lost a visionary and a true inspiration — Steve Jobs. Personally, I was devastated by the news. Although I didn’t know Steve Jobs personally, I nevertheless feel a sense of personal loss now that he has passed. Why am I so saddened by the death of someone I never knew?
Maybe it’s because I’ve been an Apple guy ever since I played my first computer game on my neighbor’s Apple IIe. I bought my first Macintosh computer in 1987 (a Mac Plus with a single floppy drive and no hard drive). Even through the dark years after the company stupidly fired its heart, soul and creative genius, I was still an Apple guy and tried to convince everyone else that Macs were the best computers around. Back then, people thought I was crazy (not one of the good “Crazy Ones” Apple highlighted in this classic ad to revive the company in the late 90s, just a real crazy one). Thanks to Steve Jobs, nobody calls me crazy anymore — well, at least not because of my love of Apple products.
But I’m clearly not alone in feeling that sense of personal loss. The Internet is already rife with comparisons of Steve Jobs’ loss to the deaths of rock stars like John Lennon and Elvis. Why? Maybe it’s because Steve Jobs is largely responsible for changing so much about how we live our lives.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Law Law Land (or any other blog) would not exist without Jobs’ “insanely great” dream, 35 years ago, of putting computers in every household and on every desk. Anyone who experienced the pains of working out with a clumsy, oversized Walkman on their belts can thank Steve for putting their entire music collection on their arm in a compact package smaller than a deck of cards — a package which may also be a phone, not to mention a computer that is millions of times more powerful than my original Mac Plus. And don’t even get me started on the magic of the iPad. Perhaps the greatest testament to the seemingly limitless reach of Jobs’ innovations is the fact that even the hateful fools who now plan to picket his memorial service made their nasty announcement on Twitter using one of Steve’s devices. With millions of us carrying little pieces of Steve Jobs’ work in our pockets every day, it’s easy to feel like we knew the man himself.
Little of this tribute is unique amongst the outpouring of clever, creative, and poignant tributes on the Internet this week. But here at Law Law Land, we also have to recognize that, just as it has spent the last 30 years pushing the technological envelope, Apple also has a long history of pushing the legal envelope. For example, in the early 90s, Apple sued Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard for copyright infringement, arguing that the Windows operating system infringed Apple’s copyright in the “look and feel” of the graphical user interface (GUI) of the Macintosh operating system. While Apple eventually lost that lawsuit because the Ninth Circuit ruled that Apple’s copyright in the GUI was only entitled to “thin” protection against “virtually identical” copying, the case itself was vital to setting the ground rules for copyright protection in the new software space. Earlier this year, Apple targeted Samsung and Motorola for infringing patents in the iPad, obtaining a landmark injunction from a German court preventing Samsung from distributing its Galaxy 10.1 tab in Germany (a decision that nearly applied throughout the European Union). And just last week, Apple defeated a claim that its software licenses for its Mac OS X operating system constituted an anti-competitive misuse of Apple’s copyright, with the Ninth Circuit finding that Apple’s restriction of the use of Mac OS X to only Apple computers was perfectly proper.
You may or may not agree with Apple’s positions in these various lawsuits. And if you aren’t a lawyer, you may or may not even care. But Steve Jobs was clearly a man who was as protective of his company’s inventions as he was proud of them, and there’s no question that he leaves a legal as well as a technological legacy that is part of his very real impact on our day-to-day lives.
So, thank you, Steve Jobs. Thank you for giving all of us the chance to share a piece of your vision and creativity. We’re all better off for it.