I’ve made no bones about Florian Mueller being a major source for my posts about Apple’s legal wrangling with Android OEMs. His FOSS Patents posts was the basis of no fewer than six of my own posts. I’ve always liked his writing style, which breaks down the thoroughly complex and tedious issues related to patent law in technology and makes them easy to understand. It also helped that his posts reflected my own personal bias that Apple’s fight to defend its iOS intellectual property was, for lack of a better word, noble.
Then something strange happened, but I don’t know exactly when it did.
The klaxon was when Daniel Eran Dilger, an Apple beat writer who I respect greatly, went after him for his take on Apple’s damages claim in the most recent Apple-Samsung trial (a Twitter exchange about which led Mueller to block Dilger). Before that, I had noticed a couple one-off Apple takes in Mueller’s Twitter feed, but I wrote that off as part of the limitation of a 140-character medium. It was the AppleInsider piece that served as confirmation that Mueller had crossed a track with which he had always run parallel. I hadn’t linked to him for awhile, so I started looking back at his more recent FOSS Patent posts – and one of the first that caught my eye was somewhat disappointing.
Florian Mueller was endorsing a book that was universally panned by the Mac community – and not just the lunatics. The book’s premise is stated hilariously clearly in the title itself. From what I’ve read, the book is basically one long BusinessInsider post. Philip Elmer-DeWitt summarized the shortcomings of Kane’s work nicely. Nevermind that Mueller never reviewed a book in his blog before; he was recommending an absolute dog. Something had changed. The tone of the FOSS entries had started their ascent to their current level of anti-Apple bombast around January of this year. And it wasn’t just his blog that flipped; his Twitter account had taken an unusual pro-Samsung turn. On the day Apple smashed the 2Q earnings estimates laid out by analysts, Mueller’s tweets focused on iPad sales coming up short in the eyes of some analysts, which was literally the only thing that might be construed as negative in an otherwise lights-out quarter for Apple. When Samsung announced its second consecutive decline in YoY earnings, Mueller was decidedly upbeat.
The closest thing I could come up to an explanation appears in a FOSS Patents post Mueller wrote in earlier this month in which he shows his fatigue at the seemingly unending nature of the Apple-Samsung litigation. Apparently, Mueller feels that the following is the case:
1. Apple has nothing to show for its legal assault on Samsung
2. Neither Apple nor Samsung show any sign of relenting their legal battle
To resolve the issue, Apple and Samsung should agree to pay each other $1 and $3/unit, respectively for use of the other party’s IP (with Apple getting $750 million additional compensation for its first California verdict).
Now I admit a certain fatigue with Apple having to plow millions into its IP defense with zero to show for it, but this to me doesn’t fully explain Mueller’s about-face. Some speculate that he may have taken on Samsung as a client, which would be disappointing but not unprecedented. As several of his historical detractors pointed out during the Oracle/Google trial, Mueller was a paid consultant to Oracle.
The reasons behind Mueller’s change of heart may never be known, but it’s clear to me that one has taken place. The change in the focus of his content and, even more so, the tone of his writing is black and white to my eyes. Despite my disappointment with his new attitude, I agree with him about the patent war being one of eternal attrition that is begging for an end. Barring radical reform, I don’t see that changing, which is unfortunate. I still view him as one of the more articulate voices in the tech patent universe. I just wish he’d come back to center.