Monday, August 27, 2012

Trying to digest the Apple/Samsung verdict

Are you, like me, trying to understand the Apple/Samsung verdict? Here's some of the reporting I've found most helpful:

  • On Slate, Matthew Yglesias looks at Who Really Lost the Apple vs. Samsung Case? You Did.
    Dealing a billion-dollar hit to its only real rival in the smartphone profit game is a big win for Apple, and the fact that the trade-dress infringements will disrupt Samsung’s manufacturing and supply chain makes it a particularly solid blow.
  • The Atlantic's web site is carrying a survey-style article by Alexis Madrigal: What Apple's Legal Win Over Samsung Means for You, Technology, Design, and the World. Madrigal leads with the Wall Street Journal's assessment that, while Apple wins, consumers lose:
    Get ready for the Apple tax, at least in the short term. After its stunning victory against rival device-maker Samsung Electronics Co., experts say consumers should expect smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices that license various Apple Inc. design and software innovations to be more expensive to produce.
    Madrigal also links to Robert Scoble's amusing against-the-common-wisdom reaction:
    I think this is actually a sizable win for Samsung. Why? It only cost $1 billion to become the #2 most profitable mobile company. Remember how much Microsoft paid for Skype? $8 billion. So, for 1/8th of a Skype Samsung took RIM's place and kicked HTC's behind. Not too bad.
  • I thought that Joshua Gans had a fairly well-considered analysis on his Digitopoly web site: Five shades of grey on Apple-Samsung, noting that competition works best when the competitors actually compete by offering better products, not just cheaper ones:
    If Samsung can just copy an iPhone, then Samsung can have an incentive to position itself close to the iPhone in ‘product space’ and rely on price competition to ensure market share. Apple has to reduce price or cede share. But if Samsung cannot just copy an iPhone, then Samsung has to position itself differently. So when copying is possible, those consumers who most like the iPhone design and gestures get benefits while when copying is not possible, consumers who don’t like the iPhone design and gestures get benefits because Samsung will try and think of things that will attract them.
  • Florian Mueller breaks down the verdict on his blog and offers his opinion that Apple's legal victory is thorough, complete, and devastating.
    A California jury just handed Apple a near-complete victory on its own claims and awarded it more than $1 billion in damages, and rejected all of Samsung's claims. With most of the infringement having been established to have been willful, the jury essentially concluded that Samsung is a reckless copycat and, since some of the infringement is Google's responsibility, basically agreed with Steve Jobs's claim that Android is a stolen product.

    Apple CEO Tim Cook was absolutely right not to settle prior to this verdict.

    After the scandal that emerged when it turned out that Mueller was paid by Oracle while covering the Oracle v Google case (as Mueller points out, he did disclose this at the time), it's unclear how to evaluate his coverage of these cases. Another view on the legal aspects of the case can be found at the Groklaw case discussion, which, as usual with the Groklaw site, is also thorough and detailed.
    This story is far from over, in other words, and while Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, waxed philosophical about the trial, and saying that it was about values, not money, one important US value is that the jury fulfill its responsibilities, one of which is to read and make sure they understand and follow the jury instructions they are given. I believe Cook would agree that trials are supposed to be fair, with everyone doing their part. If this jury thought they knew the right result without instructions, and if they hurried so much they made glaring mistakes, and they did, and all in Apple's favor, something isn't right in this picture.
    TechDirt's Mike Masnick is also following the jury aspects of the case on the TechDirt blog and suggests there are serious concerns:
    The jury instructions are again clear that the jury needs to consider the prior art, but according to this juror, Manuel Ilagan, after foreman Hogan talked about his own experience with patents, they decided that prior art was "bogging us down" and they might as well "skip" it.
After watching this trainwreck, so soon after the Oracle v Google trainwreck, it seems to me incontrovertible that, as Judge Posner observed a month ago:
As in any jungle, the animals will use all the means at their disposal, all their teeth and claws that are permitted by the ecosystem.

Sigh. Surely the world can use its resources more effectively than this?

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