Editor in Chief
- Jan 5, 2011
The retrial court case between Apple and Samsung concluded last Friday (May 2), with Apple pulling out the win. It turns out their ultimate victory was pathetic compared to the last time though. The jury awarded Apple with only $120 Million dollars in damages compared to the nearly $1 Billion from the first trial over patent disputes. What's particularly weak about this victory is that the damages awarded will barely cover the legal costs Apple incurred while fighting to achieve this victory. Here's a quote explaining this further,
It is hard to view this outcome as much of a victory for Apple, Brian Love, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, said in an e-mail. The amount of damages probably doesnt surpass by too much the amount Apple spent litigating this case, he said.
The jury rejected Apples claim on the patent it counted as the most valuable of the group, one that enables updating of applications while other features of the phone are in use. Apple also lost its claim over a patent that allows a user to perform a universal search for information with a single click.
There's more that makes Apple's victory particularly hollow though. While the jury found that Samsung had infringed upon two of four Apple patents, the jury also found that Apple infringed on one of two Samsung patents. This basically means that one side stole "more" than the other, but how can you really say that someone is more of a thief? You either are a thief or you aren't. This isn't good for the reputation of either company (although realistically it will probably amount to nothing in the public's eye.)
During the trial, Apple made an "absurd" request regarding the patent damages amount they asked for, which obviously didn't pan out. Here's a quote with the details,
Apple wanted Samsung to pay as much as $40 for each phone sold that uses infringing technology, for a total of $2.19 billion. Samsung argued that the jury should award no more than $38.4 million for any infringement damages.
From the start, Samsung cast the iPhone makers case as a bid to displace Google as the leading supplier of smartphone operating systems and limit consumer choice.
The verdict doesnt slow down Samsung at all because the implied royalty rate is so low that Samsung doesnt need to worry about paying it, said Kevin Rivette, a 3LP Advisors LLC partner. It was absurd for Apple to ask for $2 billion. That was a case of Am I going to laugh now or laugh later?
Apple might have considered the trial a win if the verdict amounted to more than $10 per phone, Rivette said.
The next step will be for both companies to order sales bans of the offending devices, and decide if they want to appeal again. For the most part any sales bans will be a "non-issue" as the patents in question apply to mostly older devices which neither side actually sells in retail anymore.
In the end, this was actually a victory for patent law overall. Here's a final quote explaining that,
The most important outcome of the case is the message that small, user interface component patents are not justifying gigantic damage awards, Michael Risch, a professor at Villanova Universitys law school, said in an e-mail.
It appears that patent reform is slowly working itself out in the courts as judges and juries start to see things from a more logical perspective. This case will set a precedent which should create a more balanced perspective on patents as they pertain to small software differences.