In a verdict that has stunned American big business from coast to coast, an American jury has ordered Samsung to pay US$119.6m to Apple for smartphone patent violations. Indeed, so small and insulting an amount is this award that it barely pays one-third of the legal fees Apple have incurred in taking their case to court. What this means in the long run, especially considering issues of security and industrial espionage is interesting to contemplate but impossible to predict. As this is only round two of what is bound to be a long, expensive and savage dogfight, the world is beginning to sit up and take notice.
During this month-long trial in a US federal court in San Jose, California, Apple accused Samsung of violating patents on smartphone features, including universal search. Samsung denied wrongdoing. On Friday, the jury found the South Korean smartphone-maker had infringed two Apple patents. Yet Samsung’s guilt—as a company supported financially by South Korea’s huge military-industrial complex—is relative. As one of the U.S. federal government’s biggest allies in the ongoing war against the influence of China, South Korea plays a dirty game while the Obama administration encourages the judiciary to turn a blind eye.
Apple and Samsung have been fighting in courts around the world for three years. Jurors awarded the iPhone maker about $930m after a trial in San Jose in 2012. Yet, in spite of the temporary financial bonanza in award money, Apple failed to persuade US district judge Lucy Koh to issue a permanent injunction against the sale of Samsung phones in the US. Koh, who has a good quotable sense of humor and a gift for the bon mót, seems to be very aware that she’s what one critic called ‘tele photogenic,’ and is seen as shoo-in for the California Supreme Court.
During the trial, Samsung argued that Apple had vastly exaggerated the importance of its patented iPhone features; according to Crain’s Chicago Business, while Apple said Samsung could not have competed in the smartphone market without unfairly copying Apple’s flagship product.
In the trial in San Jose, the jury found that Samsung had infringed upon two Apple patents. The judge also ruled before the trial that Samsung had infringed upon a third patent. The jury also found Apple had infringed upon one of Samsung’s patents. Samsung, which had asserted a $6 million damages’ claim, was awarded $158,400. The two companies also contested over just how Google’s work on the software used in Samsung Android phones affects Apple’s patent claims. Google was not a defendant in the case, but, in the trial Samsung pointed out that some of the features Apple claimed to own which were actually invented by Google, and it called on a handful of Google executives to testify on its behalf.
After the verdict, Apple’s lawyers argued that the jurors had made a technical mistake in awarding damages to Apple on a patent covering one of Samsung’s phones. Koh ordered the jurors to return on Monday, May 15, 2014, to resolve this issue, which may or may not increase Apple’s damages award by a few hundred thousand dollars. This whole circus, it seems, may yet drag on for weeks more.