Yesterday, an US federal court jury ruled that Samsung Electronics has infringed six of Apple’s patents and awarded $US1.05 billion in damages to Apple. The jury also found that Apple’s iPhone and iPad tablet didn’t infringe any of the patents that Samsung had presented in the trial. Furthermore, the jury said that many of the Apple patents were wilfully infringed by Samsung. That means that Judge Lucy Koh now has the discretion to triple Apple’s damages award.
The reactions to this verdict are all over the place today. If you are interested, you can find all the details about the trial and the verdict in The Verge or The Wall Street Journal, including the trial’s documents and specific details about Apple’s patents and Samsung’s product involved in the dispute. However, it is still too soon to properly assess its real impact.
To begin with Apple and Samsung have issued official statements on the verdict. Apple is showing its happiness and gratitude to the world:
Today was an important day for Apple and for innovators everywhere.
Many of you have been closely following the trial against Samsung in San Jose for the past few weeks. We chose legal action very reluctantly and only after repeatedly asking Samsung to stop copying our work. For us this lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money. It’s about values. We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. And we do this to delight our customers, not for competitors to flagrantly copy.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the jury who invested their time in listening to our story. We were thrilled to finally have the opportunity to tell it. The mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than we knew.
The jury has now spoken. We applaud them for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.
I am very proud of the work that each of you do.
Today, values have won and I hope the whole world listens.
While Samsung says the verdict is a loss for the American consumer and, of course, they will appeal:
Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer. It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer. (Samsung)
At first sight, it seems a massive win for Apple and a brutal blow to Samsung, whose counter-claims have been completely dismissed. During the trial, some anticipated that an Apple’s victory would mean the beginning of legal Armageddon, and, at least temporarily, it reinforces the de-facto monopoly Apple is enjoying, specifically in the tablet’s segment:
It (Apple) is now the uber-bully of the technology industry, and is using its surging authority – and vast amounts of cash – in ways that are designed to lock down our future computing and communications in the newest frontier of smart phones and tablets. (The Guardian, “Apple crushes Samsung in quest for global tech domination”)
But it might well be only one step more in a very long battle among two fierce “coopetitors”. Bloomberg see the trial as the jungle-way to split a juicy booty(1):
Competitors are using the courts to figure out the terms of cooperation—whose intellectual property is worth what. Eventually they will get back to ordinary competition in the marketplace. Indeed, Samsung is one of Apple’s main component suppliers for mobile devices; these companies are quietly collaborating, even as their lawyers bash one another’s brains out. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek, “Apple Gets $1 Billion From Samsung—Nothing Changes”)
Robert Scoble thinks that $1Billion is a fair price to pay to become the #2 most profitable mobile company:
I bet that RIM wishes it had copied the iPhone a lot sooner than it did. So does Nokia, I bet. Samsung is a much healthier company than any of those BECAUSE it copied the iPhone (Robert Scoble, “I think this is actually a sizable win for Samsung”)
And many see the result as a clear opportunity for Microsoft’s Windows 8, starting with its own employees:
Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now.
— Bill Cox (@billcox) August 24, 2012
My own position is to reject monopoly as a matter of principle. Apple has won its current position in the market as a result of an incredibly innovative effort to re-invent the consumer electronics industry, which is both he product of pure genius and “paranoid” execution. Without any doubt, Steve Jobs’s company has been absolutely revolutionary and the iPhone itself a game changer, and it is only fair that there is a reward for it. But it is also true that once something as valuable as today’s mobile digital services has been brought about, the tighter you keep the protection conferred by intellectual property, the more detrimental will be for society as a whole.
If as a consequence of this trial’s verdict, consumers now had to cope with, for example, different interfaces or even a radically different user experience in order to do the same tasks or use similar applications in different devices, that would only contribute to fragment the market and increase consumer lock-in, and eventually it would hamper follow-up innovation. Therefore I think there is some truth in Google’s claim that some iphone’s patents should be considered industry standards, so that Apple would have to license them on FRAND terms to its competitors. The problem is we do not know yet how to implement this in a reasonable and fair way, hence we are left only with the jungle-way or…
We should not forget that the very basic infrastructure underlying the present wave of innovation in digital services (the web) followed a completely different route to market and his inventor did not get rich by founding his own company:
it’s worth remembering what Sir Tim Berners-Lee did 21 years ago, when he created the first truly open internet-based platform: namely, the World Wide Web. In an early interview about his invention, Berners-Lee confessed there was a time where he considered taking a different route and trying to profit from what he had developed, but he chose a different path. The amount of social and commercial value that has been created as a result is almost impossible to calculate (Gigaom, “There is only one truly open platform: the web”)
Can you imagine history if Sir Tim Berner’s Lee would have created a company to monopolize “the web”?
(1) Featured Image: Stuart Herod, Thoroughbredfineart: Fighting Lions