The verdict is in- according to the jury, Samsung infringed upon Apple, and must now pay the tech giant damages equal to $1.05 billion. It’s considerably less than Apple’s original asking price, but it’s still a very hefty sum. Not only that, Apple’s moving to get eight more Samsung products banned from sale in the United States- they’ve already gotten an injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab. The media’s been in a frenzy ever since the verdict- and the interview with the lead juror on the case. One question yet remains among all the others: what does this mean for consumers?
It’s no secret that the patent wars are a very, very bad thing for the market, and that patent trolls cause nothing but harm. It’s also no secret that the mobile industry – really, the whole technology industry – is possibly one of the most disgustingly litigious in history. It seems as though you can’t even look at the news without hearing about some new lawsuit, either by a nonpracticing entity (patent troll) or a legitimate organization (which might be behaving as a troll, anyway).
It’s also fairly clear that Apple’s victory isn’t a chiefly legal one- and that their motivations might not have been entirely about protecting their intellectual property. They’ve knocked a major competitor out of the picture. If these injunctions against Samsung pass, and the verdict holds, they’ve basically crippled one of their largest rivals in the mobile sector. This could mean any number of things. Perhaps Microsoft might step up to the plate, and replace Samsung’s phones as one of the chief competitors to the iPhone. Perhaps Apple will drive up prices and scale down innovation- after all, who’s really going to compete with them now?
Or perhaps this will be, as some have predicted, little more than a drop in the bucket for both organizations. Maybe nothing will change at all. Admittedly, this last possibility doesn’t seem particularly likely.
So that’s how things will change for customers of Apple and Samsung. But what about the market as a whole? Again, it’s tough to say. Given that Apple has evidently patented absurd items such as rounded corners and pinch to touch (or so say the journalists), we might well see a huge shift in the mobile industry. It could go one of two ways- developers and designers could become so determined not to copy Apple (after all, who wants to get sued?) that they’ll come out with something better than Apple ever could. They’ll create. They’ll invent. They’ll innovate.
Alternatively, we could see stagnation. The mobile industry could turn into a veritable minefield, with everybody tip-toeing about, terrified of being the next person to wind up in a patent suit. Already, we may be seeing more patent litigation with Apple’s success -yet another surge in patent trolls. In the end, the only people who might benefit are the lawyers. Though I hate to be a pessimist, that seems a far more likely scenario.
“If you look at the mobile market right now, everybody is suing everybody as a result of the Apple-Samsung trial,” Mike Cherry, a Windows Analyst with Directions on Microsoft said to PC World. “I don’t think it’s going to reduce very many of these lawsuits, but it’s probably going to give them more ammunition to go after others.”
At the end of the day, it’s still too early to say precisely how we’ll all be impacted by this trial- but we will be, and anyone with an interest in purchasing a smartphone at any point in the future should be paying very, very close attention. Oh, and don’t expect to be purchasing any Samsung smartphones or tablets for a while, if you live in the States.
Image Credits: [iphone Life]