It’s tempting, after such a sweeping verdict in Apple’s favor, to conclude that Samsung’s decision to mimic the iPhone was a terrible mistake. The firm will now be on the hook for at least $1 billion in damages, and the judge could triple that amount. Samsung will likely face sales injunctions on many of its products, and will be forced to quickly design around Apple’s patents in its current and upcoming devices, if not to pay a steep licensing fee. Other companies that took inspiration from Apple—including Motorola, HTC and, at the top of the chain, Google—will also be stung by this decision.
But if you study what’s happened in the mobile industry since 2007, a different moral emerges. It goes like this: Copying works.
Of the three paths open to tech companies in the wake of the iPhone—ignore Apple, out-innovate Apple, or copy Apple—Samsung’s decision has fared best. Yes, Samsung’s copying was amateurish and panicky, and now it will have to pay for its indiscretions. But the costs of patent infringement will fall far short of what Samsung gained by aping Apple. Over the last few years, thanks to its brilliant mimicry, Samsung became a global force in the smartphone business. This verdict will do little to roll back that success.
- If you were wondering what they were saying in Samsung Land, here you go. Happy campers they are not. Outside of Samsung, though, I’ve got to say, the reaction seems rather muted. For blog hits alone, I was sort of hoping for Gaza-like protests of angry Korean tech geeks smashing iPads and burning Steve Jobs in posthumous effigy. Alas, there haven’t been any. At least among the people around me, Samsung doesn’t engender the same warm, fuzzy feelings that Apple seems to beget in the United States—and not entirely without reason, some might argue.
We are talking about utility patents covering basic smartphone functions here. And there’re few things more basic than smartphone connecting and using high-speed mobile data network. With LTE development starting in 2004 from NTT Docomo proposal and ending in a standard in 2009, it is safe to say – Apple had very little to do with it.
In fact, according to Daum, Samsung, LG and Ericsson own 60% of LTE patents worldwide.
And we didn’t even mention such mobile heavy-weights at the time as Nokia, Motorola (Google), or RIM.
And you thought chipmaker cross-licenses Apple is getting from suppliers to iPhone 5 will protect it from counter suits?