The Trial Was All About Competitive Advantage

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-08-29 Print this article Print

If all of this sounds like a mess, that's because it is. Apple and Samsung have been suing each other in courts worldwide. Neither side has gotten the upper hand, and in many cases the rulings are contradictory. But that hasn't stopped the confusion.

For example, there was a rumor that Samsung had decided to pay the jury award to Apple in nickels. This one made the rounds on the Internet and was taken as true by some prestigious news organizations. Of course it was totally baseless and was apparently the product of a comedy site on the Web. But let's face it, a billion dollars in nickels is almost as many as are in circulation in the world. It would take something like 5,000 tractor-trailers to carry them.

Of course, there will be no payment on the jury award any time soon. Even in the unlikely event that the verdict isn't overturned, any payment would be months in the future. And that payment might never happen. Samsung might reach agreement with Apple to pay royalties to Apple on the order of a couple of dollars per phone, and the problem would go away.

Remember, this whole patent litigation campaign was purely for competitive reasons. Apple and Samsung are business partners. When Apple ships its iPhone 5 in September, remember that Samsung made the screens. Neither company has any interest in taking out the other. The recent trial really wasn't about innovation or any of the other things that patents are supposed to be about. It was purely about getting a competitive edge in sales.

And Judge Koh knew that the whole patent trial wasn't really about patents. This is why she suggested repeatedly that the two companies work things out. She even offered to send the negotiators a box of candy to help the process.

So even if the verdict is finally upheld, and Samsung has to pay Apple $1 billion or even $3 billion if the court grants Apple's motion to triple the damages, the award is meaningless. It will have no effect on either company's financial condition. It will do nothing to discourage innovation–or encourage it for that matter.

If it has any effect at all, it will likely boost the production of Windows 8 phones, if only because phone makers won't have to worry about an Apple suit over a Windows phone. There's that Windows look and feel, you know.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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