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.