Jury Rules in Favor of Apple Over Samsung to the Tune of $1.02 Billion
Just days after being declared the biggest U.S. company ever, Apple Inc. got more good news. Friday afternoon a San Jose, California jury ruled in favor of Apple in its patent infringement lawsuit against Korea based Samsung. After a surprisingly short three day deliberation the jury found that a large number of features, both physical and software based, were proprietary Apple innovations that had been infringed on by Samsung. The three day turnaround seems particularly short given the number of devices involved and complexity of the questions decided on. A review of the twenty-two page verdict form shows that although there were only six patents in question, the actual number of points decided on exceeded seven-hundred. The jury found in Apple’s favor on five of the patents and found that the infringement was willful. Apple was awarded 1.02 billion in damages.
In the immediate aftermath of the decision there are a number of things that are already happening and are likely to happen. Apple is seeking injunctions against the products that were found to infringe on its patents. An injunction hearing has been set for September 20th. Because the infringement was found to be willful, Apple can and probably will ask for an assessment of triple damages, which the judge has discretion to apply. In addition, Apple will likely use the decision to position itself for legal action against Google’s Android software, which is running on three phones for every iPhone sold, and that the late Steve Jobs considered to be essentially stolen from Apple. For its part, Samsung has announced that it will ask the court to overturn the verdict and will appeal if that request is unsuccessful.
Although the outcome of any of these pending actions could dramatically change the actual impact of this case, there has been rampant speculation about what the ruling means if it is upheld. The Wall Street Journal has suggested mobile device prices will rise due to what it terms the “Apple Tax,” wherein other device makers will be unable to compete without licensing from Apple, forcing them to raise prices to cover the licensing charges. Alternatively, it has been suggested that by preventing easy duplication of popular technology the ruling will push rival device makers to become more innovative and explore new directions in an effort to avoid potential patent conflicts with Apple. PC Magazine suggests that Microsoft in particular may stand to benefit from the decision. It stated that the, “Windows Phone has been well-reviewed but has struggled to make a dent in Android and iOS market share” and Microsoft “will likely welcome anything that might help slow Android mobile domination.” The article goes on to quote a tweet from senior marketing director, Bill Cox, of Microsoft that read “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now” suggesting that people within Microsoft recognize the potential benefit the decision could create for the company.
I own a Kindle Fire and a Droid Pro phone both of which I’m very fond of. Neither device was identified in this lawsuit. Both are theoretically impacted by this suit’s validation of Apple’s patents. Apple is almost certainly going to try and use this case as a starting point to put infringement related pressure on Google over features of Android software. As a result, I can’t help but feel personally invested in this ruling. Are they going to have to push software changes that limit functionality to bring the devices into compliance? Will they be discontinued? Recalled? Will there be any noticeable impact on consumers at all? Who knows.