Newsletter Issue #665: So Does the Apple/Samsung Verdict Hurt Innovation?

August 27th, 2012

It’s one for the books, to be sure, but Apple was awarded a huge victory Friday in their ongoing worldwide legal skirmishes against Samsung for patent infringement. In a San Jose courtroom, a nine-member jury found that Samsung was, for the most part, guilty as charged, and they awarded Apple over one billion dollars in penalties. In turn, Apple owes nothing to Samsung, whose counterclaims failed to connect with the jury.

But the story doesn’t end there, because Samsung has already made it clear they plan to appeal, and that is to be expected. It is also possible for U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to reject all or part of the jury’s verdict, and even to triple the damages on the theory that Samsung’s infringement was willful. In turn, Apple will demand that Samsung be enjoined from selling the infringing products in the U.S. To be sure, this case may take years to resolve, when you consider appeals. By that time, the alleged infringing products will be history.

Both Apple and Samsung released statements that were in themselves predictable. Apple CEO Tim Cook said it all in the first sentence of an employee memo, that “Today was an important day for Apple and for innovators everywhere.” Samsung’s spin on the situation is that “Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer.

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5 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #665: So Does the Apple/Samsung Verdict Hurt Innovation?”

  1. Larry Prall says:

    This is what I sent to a friend on the subject:

    I love the screams about how the Apple verdict will limit consumer choice if it stands. It will only limit choice if other companies choose not to produce competing products.

    I really think that this kind of infringement is more akin to copyright infringement. If you write a song for guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums and vocals and someone else tries to distribute it as a string quartet, or sing it in a club accompanied only by piano, it’s infringement; everyone knows it, no one contests it. And that’s the way it should be. No one suggests that enforcing that copyright restricts the listener’s choice, because it doesn’t; there is an effectively (perhaps literally) infinite number of ways to produce music without infringing your song. If someone else want to perform that song they’ll going to have to pay royalties on it. It makes absolutely no difference that the G Major key has been used before, or that a shift from 2/4 to 5/4 has been done before. If the performance is recognizeable, it’s infringement.

    Product design is a little tougher, but not much. Look at high fashion. There are certain characteristics that all dresses of necessity share. But anyone who tries to copy the design of a haute couture house will find himself in legal trouble even if he changes the fabric and moves a sash from one side to the other. This is not the same as trying to sell a rip-off Rolex, and everyone knows that as well.

    It is ridiculous to say that the design features of the iPhone are essential to the function of a phone. There were a lot of phones before Apple’s which bore no resemblance to it – rather obviously. It is not ridiculous to say that people seemed to prefer that design to other designs, because they obviously did. But regardless of the ultimate outcome of the legal maneuverings the way to compete is to develop different designs which appeal more to the public. That’s how you increase consumer choice.

  2. lrd555 says:

    Well, if you define “innovation” as blatantly copying Apple or ripping off their IP; then yes it will hurt innovation.
    Should we condone stealing so that consumers can save buck?

  3. kevin spahr says:

    Let’s eliminate protection from copycats in the drug industry – we all know how far that idea would get.

  4. Jocca says:

    I think, the results is good for safeguarding innovations against those rip off companies who tried to take advantage of someone else R&D and pass the whole thing off as competition, which it is not. My brother in law was involved in creating a line of modern sofa in the late 70s, using high quality foam rubber and a steel frame to give it shape. The design was very pleasing to the eye and also very comfortable. It sold for 500$ in those days. Unfortunately, the knock off artists started to pile on the design, using lower quality material and offering their copies at a cheaper price. It just caused the company to fold. Now, that is what will happen to Apple iPhone, if the company had allowed Samsung a free hand in copying its technology and I am glad the jury voted against that kind of practice.

  5. dfs says:

    It’s just possible that, in the long run, Samsung’s loss will turn out to be a big win for the consumer, American and otherwise. If Apple’s rivals can no longer take the easy out and simply copy Apple’s solutions, in order to keep competitive they might be compelled to become more creative: invest more in R&D, hire more creative engineers and take the wraps off those they no doubt already have. If that were to happen, how could the consumer be the loser?

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