Last week, a federal jury in a U.S. court asked Samsung to pay Apple a fine of over $1 billion for violation of patents. The implications of the verdict could have a profound effect on the way gadgets are designed in the future
The reactions to the U.S. federal jury verdict on the patent violations case between Apple and Samsung (or the AppSung case as geek forums have christened it) in which the South Korean company was asked to pay the folks at Cupertino, California a fine in excess of $1 billion is most likely to throw up innovative products like never before.
While the initial reactions to what is surely a landmark judgment left the technology world fractured on what it could possibly mean, now barely a few days later, almost every technology writer out there agrees the future won’t be as bleak or as monopolistic as was initially suggested.
Apple, the undisputed victors of the moment, went to town saying the verdict was a triumph for originality and innovation. In its official reaction, the company said, “The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy.”
Loss for American consumer?
Samsung, meanwhile, was rather acerbic in its reaction, when it said the verdict was a loss for the American consumer. (The verdict does not have any bearing on the sales or distribution of products within India.) “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies.” Samsung is expected to appeal against the verdict, while Apple is pressing for injunctions against the sale of the some of the smartphones that were found by the jury as having infringed on patents.
Eminent technology writers have commented that the likely outcome of the verdict will in the long run be more positive for consumers than negative, even though the immediate future might throw up some challenges. Some smartphone makers — apart from Samsung, and even the likes of HTC that makes Android phones — might alter their designs and user-interfaces a bit to make them as non-iPhoneish as possible.
A sizable win?
Robert Scoble, one of California’s eminent technology writers, parodied a bit when he posted on his Facebook Wall: “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.” But he quickly added: “Not too bad. Unless the judge rules Samsung can't sell its products. Even then I bet Samsung arrives at a nice licensing deal with Apple.”
Kara Swisher of AllthingsD, a technology blog published by the Wall Street Journal, interprets Google’s official statement on the AppSung verdict as being edgy and worried. Google had said: “The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office.” Swisher interpreted that message as: “Good lord, let’s hope Samsung wins on appeal, because if Apple prevails, it might be coming for us next.”
While interpretations of the verdict are plenty, from a consumer point of view, this only points to a future where more innovative products and aggressive pricing will become the norm. There is no denying the fact that Apple has innovated on its mobile devices over the past decade. But there can be no doubt either that the likes of Samsung are going to take this verdict lying down.
In between all the talk about Apple vs Samsung vs HTC vs Google, there is also the expectation that the recent developments might, in fact, end up aiding the likes of Microsoft and Nokia, what with the Windows 8 phone looming large on the horizon.