Apple's $1 Billion Damage Award Against Samsung Is Patently Meaningless

NEWS ANALYSIS: The jury verdict awarding $1.05 billion of Samsung's money to Apple for patent infringement wasn't even a legal misstep. In reality it was a legal stumble of nine bemused people.

If the jury verdict in a California federal court accomplished anything beyond spending millions of your tax dollars needlessly, it also served to sow confusion. Worse, the confusion started with the jury itself, which was so bewildered about its own verdict that it awarded damages for things that the jury itself had decided didn't infringe on Apple's patents. Then it went downhill from there.

Leaving aside the likelihood that the jury conducted an unseemly rush to judgment and the foreman of the jury apparently had an interest in a related patent, the fact is that the jury made so many errors that its decision is nearly certain to be overturned on appeal. The jury was apparently so confused with the concept of "prior art" that it finally decided just to move on and ignore the issue.

Then the confusion spread. Samsung stocks dropped about seven percent the next day. Google stock prices dropped because of the association with Android. Investors spent a day running scared. But then somebody stopped to think.

What is a billion dollars to Samsung? Chump change. It's Samsung's version of pizza money. It's a rounding error in the annual report. And it means even less to Apple because Apple is so obscenely cash-rich that a billion more or less will never be noticed. So why the angst? Won't Apple force all of those Samsung phones off the market?

Well, perhaps, but for the most part those Samsung phones are models that are two years old or more. Many aren't even being sold any more. And Samsung's hot-selling Galaxy S III isn't affected by the verdict, nor is the Galaxy Note. In other words, none of the current Samsung smartphones is affected by the verdict and won't be subject to any injunction the federal court might grant, which at this point is a highly unlikely prospect.

The reason any injunction against selling old phones by Samsung is unlikely is actually twofold. First, Samsung is appealing and there's a good chance its appeal will be upheld, at least to the point of granting a second trial on the grounds of jury misconduct. The second reason an injunction probably won't be granted is that the federal judge in the case is aware that the jury in the case didn't follow her instructions and that it may have shirked its duty.

In addition, Judge Lucy Koh has announced that she will not grant a preliminary injunction demanded by Apple, but will instead hear arguments on a permanent injunction in December. Samsung, meanwhile, is asking that the injunction Koh did grant stopping sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 be lifted because the jury found that it didn't infringe on Apple's patents.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...