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Obama upholds ban, Samsung frets over consumer choice

Obama has denied Samsung’s veto request, deciding to instead allow the ban prohibiting the company from exporting older models of Galaxy S, Galaxy SII, Galaxy Nexus, and Galaxy Tab 10.1 to the United States. This in line with the copyright infringement tangle of which we need not revisit.

Forget the bottom line, it’s really all about respecting consumer rights says Sammy:

“It will serve only to reduce competition and limit choice for the American consumer,” the company said in a statement.

That’s nice.

Trade rep Michael Froman emphasized that the decision was not America looking out for its own nor, as some have suggested, that “the specter of U.S. protectionism is looming large.

“The nationality of the companies involved played no role in the review process,” he said. “Both Samsung and Apple are important contributors to the US economy and help advance innovation and technological progress.”

Samsung has the option of delaying the ban by taking it to the U.S. Apple’s Appeals Court. I’ll bet a buck that they do.

 

The Apple vs. Samsung Chronicles: The US Steps in For the Sake of Innovation

Upon the advice of Michael Froman, the United States trade representative and the president’s adviser on international trade issues, the Obama administration has vetoed a federal commission’s ban that would have forced Apple to stop selling some iPhones and iPads in the United States next week due to an infringement on a Samsung-held patent related to transmission of data over cellular networks.

This is the first time since 1987 an administration has vetoed an international Trade Commission ban.

(Mr. Froman) wrote in his decision issued on Saturday that it was based in part on the “effect on competitive conditions in the U.S. economy and the effect on U.S. consumers.” . . .  Mr. Froman said his decision did not mean that Samsung was “not entitled to a remedy. On the contrary, the patent owner may continue to pursue its rights through the courts.”

Susan Kohn Ross, an international trade lawyer for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, said the administration’s veto announced on Saturday will effectively remove a major bargaining chip for Samsung that could have disrupted Apple’s manufacturing facilities for making iPhones and iPads.

As per the comments section on this report file on the NYTimes, one comment summarizes nicely:

Samsung copied Apple products and then tried to use patents in an illegal way to avoid the consequences: if they get away with this, they can force Apple to ignore the copying or else get products banned.

The Samsung patents at issue here are part of a wireless standard — you’re required to use their invention to connect to some networks. In order to be included in the standard, Samsung promised to license them in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. But for Apple, which used wireless chips from companies that had already paid the licensing fees, Samsung demanded enormous additional fees.

This exact issue has already been litigated in several courts around the world, and this practice has never been allowed. In fact, Samsung faces a potential fine of billions of dollars in Europe for doing this.

All of the other big technology companies support Apple in this matter, since allowing what Samsung has done would wreck the whole standards system.

A New York Times Blog article on this is here.

Can Samsung be cooler than Apple?

That’s what the Korea Times wants to know:

Samsung Electronics is the global leader in mobile phones, televisions and computer memory chips.

However, what the Korean company really wants is to be admired, and by successfully injecting creative input into its smart products in recent years, it finally seems to be earning its stripes as an innovator.

The main source of inspiration in the technology industry in recent years has been Apple, the maker of the revolutionary iPhones and iPads and Samsung’s bitter industry rival.

Look, I know I come off as a Samsung fanboy sometimes, but I’m perfectly willing to concede that Apple is the gold standard of cool. I direct you once again to Milo Yiannopoulos:

Not to be rude, but when was the last time you saw a smouldering hottie merrily chatting away into an Android phone? That’s right, you never have. Because giving in to Android is just another way of advertising that you care more about PHP than people.

Hot people do not use Android. If they’re time-rich, cash-poor hipster cuties, they’ll be sporting that ubiquitous symbol of cool, the iPhone. It’s those apps, man. I don’t understand how some people make it past an artisanal card shop without Instagramming it for the boys back at the agency.
[...]
But they’re also utterly aesthetically insensitive, apparently not realising that every Android device ever made is hideously, hideously, hideously fugly. I mean, seriously: what is wrong with these handset manufacturers? It’s like their design brief was: “create a carbuncle”.

That’s what Samsung is up against. Personally, I like how the newer Samsung models look. At any rate, I don’t think they look like carbuncles. And if you’re tech-oriented and like kick-ass displays (like me), you’re going to like Samsung. But even I have to admit they’re nowhere near the user experience my iMac or iPad are. Is this because TouchWiz still leaves a lot to be desired? I don’t know.

LG pushes Apple into 3rd place in US market / Samsung finally recognized for innovation

So, I take it that iPhone 5 isn’t doing so hot:

LG Electronics has pushed Apple into third place in the North American mobile phone market.

LG rose to second place with a 13 percent share in December, overtaking Apple, which had 12 percent, according to Hong Kong market researcher Counterpoint Research.

LG was in second place in North America until the third quarter of 2011, when it ceded the position to Apple after the release of the iPhone 4S.

And to piss a bit more in Apple’s Wheaties, the Boston Consulting Group has named Samsung the world’s third most innovative company behind Apple and Google. And that’s not good for Apple—said Haydn Shaughnessy at Forbes:

Samsung is an innovator and has risen up the BCG rankings by 8 places. Behind the scenes Samsung invests heavily in its engineers’ innovation capabilities. While we’ve all been watching the court case, Samsung has gone from strength to strength. And is now neck and neck with Apple on revenues. 2013 could be the year we look to Korea for who is defining the future of tech.

I stand by what I said earlier—Seoul is the place where the future will happen.

One of the links in that piece is to a Salon story on how Samsung became the world’s biggest tech company—the part about the Note is instructive:

Consider the phablet. Back in 2011, when Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Note—a 5.3-inch smartphone that was big enough to be a minitablet, hence the ugly portmanteau—the world’s tech pundits couldn’t stifle their giggles. Was it a phone? Was it a tablet? Was it a joke? Smartphone industry blog Boy Genius Report called the Note “the most useless phone I’ve ever used,” adding: “You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you’ll be unhappy if you buy it.” Gizmodo argued that the Note “isn’t just designed poorly—it’s hardly even designed for humans.” I couldn’t resist joining the chorus. With the Note, I wrote, Samsung was hoping to stoke a certain kind of envy in young men all over the world. The firm was banking on the fact that “when you whip a phone as big as the Galaxy Note out of your pants, some dudes will think you’re a god.”

But the joke’s on me and my smart-ass tech journo colleagues. Confounding our predictions, Samsung sold 10 million Notes in 2012, making it one of the most successful smartphone launches in history. Then, in the fall, Samsung launched the Galaxy Note II, an upgraded version with an even larger screen—and it promptly sold 5 million of them, and is on track to sell 20 million over the course of the year. The Note’s success has spawned a spate of copycats, with phablets becoming the hottest new smartphone category. Over at Quartz, Christopher Mims smartly argues that as ridiculous as it looks, the phablet is becoming the computing device of choice in the developing world. “If your budget is limited, why deal with two different upgrade cycles and two different devices, when you can put all of your money into a single device?” he argues. Mims believes that the Note’s success may even force Apple to build a rival phablet.

Since I switched to the Galaxy Note, I can’t even look at an iPhone without giggling. It’s just so puny, like a shriveled appendage or something.

And the hits just keep coming

The Korea Times, once again with the Apple “patriotic” ruling schtick, is digging up the old debate that iPhone ripped off Samsung’s F700.

There is some choice irony though. The KT copied Psy, calling the article: “Copycatting ― Apple style.”

Trendy titling aside, the only sources for the piece are two unnamed Samsung executives.

And then there is the Apple memo –with a photo– “obtained by The Korea Times,” sourced with the statement:

Now, what appears to be an internal memo from Apple appears to show it was the other way around — the U.S. firm copying designs from Samsung and LG Electronics.

That certainly appears solid.

The F700/iPhone debate was examined thoroughly -actually by an Apple un-friendly site, The Android Community– last year.  And that piece was very well sourced.

You can read it and decide for yourself here.

I must admit, F700 is a catchy name for a phone –one which I hope was trademarked before someone snatches it up. And there has to be some sort of patent for the extent of solid spin being churned out by unbiased media outlets.

Seriously though, regardless of where you stand on the issue, you have to love this comment posted on The Android Community site:

There’s also the possibility that they both ended up with similar designs through a display of the convergence theory in evolution, or “the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.”

That’s gotta be it.

Gee, I guess Koreans really DO back Samsung

At the WSJ’s Korea Real Time, Evan Ramstad cites poll data that suggests Korea really is “Samsung country.

Watercooler talk, newspaper editorials and Internet postings convinced us last week that South Koreans considered the verdict more than another turn in the long dispute between Apple and Samsung – it’s a slap in South Korea’s face by the United States.

On Monday, a Joong Ang Ilbo columnist wrote that the verdict was “no surprise” and is “the ‘American style’ of doing things when their interests are threatened. It is the yardstick Americans have stuck to in every economic and business battle. Anything that Americans are not tops at is evil and dangerous.”

Whew. We’ll put that down as an extreme expression of the public sentiment. A survey released Monday by Gallup Korea at last anchored the mood with some hard data. The results are sure to please Samsung executives, as they show the vast majority of the 606 South Koreans who were polled have accepted the company’s spin on the outcome.

I have to say, I was a bit surprised the results were as lopsided as they were. Sure, Samsung might be seen by some as a national champion, but there are many who also see it as the epitome of corporate evil—and not without reason. Surely, I thought, there’d be plenty of left-minded Koreans who’d hold their nose and root for the Americans just to see them stick it to Samsung.

Clearly I was wrong.

Of course, this may have nothing to do with nationalism—it could be just that many Koreans recognize the potential harm the verdict has done to consumer choice and IT innovation. Right?

Americans sore losers: JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer

The JoongAng Ilbo’s Sunny Yang lectures Americans about innovation:

To build a country and defend one is not the same work. It is not entirely wrong to claim Americans discovered, invented and created almost every modern cutting-edge technology. They were great builders, but not such good defenders. If they had not been self-indulgent with their pioneering works and endeavored to stay on top of the market with innovations, the latecomers would not have dared to jump into the fray and attempted to outperform them.

But somewhere down the road, American cars and semiconductors became mediocre and failed to appeal to consumers. Turning the blame on competitors for their underperformance has not helped American industry before and won’t now.

One newspaper article questioned if Apple, having lost its drive for innovation, can merely appeal to American patriotism to survive. Without deep self-retrospection and a dedication to innovate, the strategy of relying on past supremacy cannot save the American economy.

To be fair to Yang, if there’s a group of people exceptionally qualified to recognize economic jingoism, it’s Korean journalists.

Still, given the nature of the case, you’d think it wasn’t the American company that lacked the ability to innovate, unless one defines innovation as “shamelessly ripping off your competitors.”

And on the Samsung—Apple front…

- The Fair Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to see if multinational firms are violating Korean patent law… not that this has anything to do with the Apple verdict, of course:

The FTC also plans to look into aggressive and allegedly unfair patent lawsuits filed by some multinational firms as a way to hinder the advance of Korean businesses in their markets or to profiteer by requesting too high licensing fees.

“The reason (behind the investigation) is that multinational firms have reportedly enforced their patents in an unfair manner through discriminative royalties policies, tie-in sales and unfair conditions in licensing contracts,” the official said.

- Samsung is strengthening its partnerships with American telecom providers to develop new designs.

- DLBarch was kind enough to link to the actual jury verdict.

- The real loser in the Samsung—Apple case is you.

- Hey, the Galaxy Note II has been unleashed!

- Samsung has, in all likelihood, earned a fanboy for life by sending a very, very cool Galaxy S III to a guy in Canada (HT to Stafford). I just hope Apple didn’t patent dragons.

More Samsung—Apple crap

- Did Samsung bet wrong in copying Apple? Or did it bet right? In PandoDaily, Farhad Manjoo writes that in ripping off Apple, Samsung might have made the smart call:

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.

- Apple wants an injunction against eight Samsung phones.

- Laugha while you can, Apple Boy. Samsung might launch what North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently called an “all-out counter-offensive” on Apple when it releases the iPhone 5 in October:

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?

Think again.

So, Uncle Marmot, what ARE the Korean papers saying about the Samsung shellacking?

Well, the Chosun Ilbo noted the ruling was pretty much the mirror opposite of the Seoul District Court ruling in Korea the day before. This, they note, was due to the jury system in the United States. It’s said, the Chosun relates, that the jury focused more on the design and function patents rather than the difficult technical issues. That they returned a verdict in just 22 hours demonstrates that this was a possibility. The Chosun also suggested that the jury might have been rooting for Apple, a leading American company, at a time when the US economy is struggling, and this might have influenced the decision.

Nevertheless, one thing worth noting, said the Chosun, is that the court broadly recognized trade dress, a concept universal in the United States but still unfamiliar in Korea.

The Chosun concluded by saying Samsung has taken a major hit with the decision. Worse than the financial damages is that the company has now been branded a “copy cat.” The verdict will also have an impact on the roughly 50 patent suits ongoing nationwide. Samsung needs to escape from these “copy cat” fights by quickly bolstering their design and software capabilities, says the Chosun. In the short term, the company needs to boost its internal design capacity by bringing in the world’s best experts, and in the long term, it must find a way to strengthen educational facilities by bringing in leading professors in the global design field in order to turn Korean university students into world-class design talent.

The Joong-Ang Ilbo, as one might expect given its history, was not entirely pleased with the decision. It notes that “experts” point out the decision lacked fairness and universiality because the jury—composed of people without expertise in IT or patents—rushed the decision without sufficient consideration, thus helping Apple. The JoongAng has not intention to belittle the character and independence of US legal procedures, it says, but at the same time, it could not exclude the possibility that non-experts caught up in a protectionist social atmosphere had handed down a biased decision (Marmot’s Note: The possibility that the Seoul court handed down a biased decision doesn’t seem to have entered anyone’s mind).

The JoongAng warns that if a protectionist jury handed down a decision unilaterally favorable to the American company, Apple, it could have a significant impact on the development of the global IT industry and economic cooperation between Korea and the United States. It expresses the opinion that sufficient consideration is needed so that in the judge’s ruling and the appeals to follow, legal decisions on a point of bilateral economic contention are not distorted by the social atmosphere (Marmot’s Note: For a prime example of how the non-jury systems are better able to handle social atmospheres, see the Lone Star case).

The problem, says the JoongAng, is that Apple will raise even more parent disputes of a similar nature. Apple and Samsung already have about 30 cases ongoing in nine nations, including Korea and the United States. Being glass-half-full sort of folk, the JoongAng note this is proof that in the Samsung has become a world-class company threatening Apple in the smartphone and tablet PC market (Marmot’s Note: Gee, you think? Samsung is the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer, with a market share twice that of Apple’s). As Samsung distinguishes itself in the world market, competing companies will try harder to contain it.

Finally, the Joongang warns that the “fast follower” strategy of copying or following other companies or their products won’t work anymore. Regardless of the verdicts, Samsung needs to become a “first mover” that creates new technologies and opens new markets. Of course, the “first mover” can profit big, but they need to endure a lot risk. They also need creative capabilities and will for continuous innovation. The JoongAng expresses hope that this verdict will become an opportunity for Korean companies to make the leap to becoming global leading companies.

Much of the same from the Dong-A Ilbo, except they were even more critical of the jury and worried that the decision could hurt consumer choice.

For the Hankyoreh, cases like this are interesting—they’re not especially big fans of the United States in Haniland, but they’re not too keen on Samsung, either. Their editorial on the decision was pretty balanced and workmanlike. Like the Chosun, it noted that American courts broadly acknowledge intellectual property rights over trade dress. It also notes, both in the editorial and in a related news story, that Samsung—as the leading manufacturer of Android phones—is something of a proxy target for Apple’s real enemy, Google. It’s easier to target the phone manufacturers rather than invading the proverbial Fulda Gap of Google, which offers the Android OS for free at any rate.

The Hani also noted that Samsung products have developed quite a bit in terms of technical innovation, and thanks to the lawsuits, they’ve begun putting together the know-how to develop new designs and differentiate themselves. Like pretty much everyone else, they called on Samsung to move from being a fast follower focused on hardware to becoming a market leader in design and software innovation. Unlike the other papers, however, they note to do this, Samsung needs a create a flexible and creative corporate culture, not one focused on keeping things in perfect order.

MARMOT’S NOTE: As a user of the Galaxy Note, iPad and iMac—all three of which I love—my own feeling is that regardless of the case specifics, it’s a shame both sides can’t lose.

BREAKING NEWS: Verdict in, and Samsung gets slaughtered

If you’re an Apple fanboy, or just really hate Samsung, it’s time to rejoice.

Samsung has gotten clobbered. To the tune of $1.05 billion.

There are a lot of reasons to dislike Samsung—especially if you live in Korea—but I don’t see how this is a good thing for the consumer or the IT industry as a whole.

On the bright side, at least the Korean court found in Samsung’s favor.

Paying Parking Fines?

A South Korean court has just determined that Apple infringed on two Samsung patents and has to pay Samsung 35,400 (USD I think).  Someone forgot to feed the meter.

Top 5 Quotes from Lucy Koh

Judge Lucy Koh, the poor woman tasked with overseeing the Apple vs. Samsung trial, might have recently accused Apple’s lawyer of “smoking crack,” but she’s apparently issued quite a few zingers during this trial.

BTW, in case anyway accuses Koh of bias, this from CNET (the first link):

In 2006, Koh was part of a team of McDermott lawyers that represented Creative Technology in a patent dispute against Apple, according to The Washington Post. The case was settled with Apple agreeing to pay Creative $100 million. Some Apple fans accused her of favoring South-Korea-based Samsung because she’s Korean.

But earlier this year after she hit Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 with a preliminary injunction, fans of that company said her background as a Silicon Valley lawyer meant she was in league with Apple.

Nonsense, said Brian Love, a law professor at Santa Clara University who has followed the case. He points out that if Koh “were biased or had it in for one of the companies, she could have ruled against whichever one it was on summary judgment. Instead, she is sending the case to the jury.

Opening arguments in Apple vs. Samsung

Wired has the summaries of Apple’s and Samsung’s opening arguments.

Just a taste:

Samsung attorney Charlie Verhoeven conducted the opening statement. “There’s a distinction between commercial success and inventing something,” Verhoeven said. Verhoeven showed a selection of tablet designs that bore a striking resemblance to the rectangular, minimalist look of the iPad — and some of these tablets dated back to 1994.

“Apple didn’t invent the rectangular-shaped form factor you keep seeing,” Verhoeven said. Harkening back to the words that Samsung’s product chief told Wired, “They have no right to claim a monopoly on rounded corners on a rectangular screen.”

PS: I know you guys are busy, but Samsung, when can I upgrade my Galaxy Note to Jelly Bean?

(HT to Directive@Yahoo)

The New iPad for Korea – iGrab Your Money

Apple’s newest iPad is being released as of this Friday, with its new retinal display that makes for a marked improvement in reading but Apple’s latest is decidedly less than great.  Already the new device has serious problems with power usage, heat and an incredibly LONG recharging time but the device summerizes a new Apple aesthetic that is very simple: the device is built around a credit transaction and the internet.  To use the device, one loads software, to load software you must use Apple’s App Store, to use the App Store you must use a credit card, to use the credit card you must use an internet connection.  Other than having more money to spend on this device, the user should like to type because the setup time for this device is the longest I have ever had for any Apple product and that includes my MacPro.

A real problem for the expatriate user is that they can only access software Apple allows you to purchase and only in the user’s localized market setting.  This means that if an expatriate buys an iPad and starts it up here in Korea, they may want to use their local credit card to make a software purchase so that they can do something with their device, however, as soon as they use their local card, they can only access the local Korean Apple Store ONLY in Korean.  If you mess around with the settings in another application (iTunes), you can view the iTunes Store in English but you can’t buy things from the American store because you have become Koreanized (you used a silly Korean credit card, didn’t you!), so I hope you have learned enough Korean to browse the approved App Store and can use Apple software in a foreign language.    This means the user must have a credit card from America or the EU to access software that has been approved by Apple, for America or the EU AND a seperate Apple account that is linked to that credit card only (no cards from different countries under one account).  If the user — frustrated by seeing only Korean and Korean content — tries to change their address to buy from the Apple Store in the US or where ever, they are still stuck with Korean unless they reset their iPad and create a new Apple ID.

Unfortunately Steve Jobs took more with him when he died — Apple is more about the Money now and has less to do with giving people a new way to work and live.  Say you don’t like being forced to read Korean only and buying only localized, approved software: contact Apple and they will send you unrelated links on changing the language setting on your iGrab and nothing else; no comment on Apple’s failure to feed people content that might be in English, French or whatever, just localized content for localized products.  Finally, let’s say you want to return this turd the next day to the Frisbee Store you bought it from — sorry, you can’t do that either.  Maybe your Korean bank will do a stop payment?  That works better than dealing with Apple, IMHO.

In short, Latin is applicable here: Caveat emptor.  If you need to do work with a portable device, buy any laptop.  If you want to read books, buy a book.  If you want to watch a movie or listen to music, rent a DVD or use a laptop.  If you want a gateway device to help you spend money the way Apple wants you to, buy and keep paying for an iPad.

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