Apple vs Samsung: Does it matter?

Last week’s verdict in Apple vs Samsung involves some big numbers – hey, more than a billion US dollars in damages for Apple -, but it’s hardly as earth-shattering as some commentators claim. There will be an appeal, and then perhaps another one. We may see those damages shrivel from enormous to minimal (or even zero) faster than you can say “rounded rectangle”.

In hindsight, the ruling may come to be seen as a high-water mark for the insanity caused by software and design patents. But it won’t fundamentally change the smartphone market, or even the patent battlefield.

I was going to discuss this in greater detail. But it turns out that Glyn Moody has already done the job. Please go and read his article. Here are some notable points:

  • The jury leader might have been biased. Samsung is sure to bring this up in an appeal.
  • There’s prior art for most of the patents in question.
  • With the lawsuit, Apple may have damaged the uniqueness of its own brand. The lawsuit highlighted how similar Samsung’s devices are to the iStuff. Moreover, by descending into this sort of petty squabble, more people may come to view Apple not as a pioneering innovator (though I’d just say they’re rather good at copying and improving things), but more as a new Microsoft; a company that has run out of ideas and survives by grabbing competitors by the neck and emptying their pockets:

Apple’s products are just as well-designed and good-looking today in the wake of the court case, as they were before. But something has changed, thanks in part to the courtroom spectacle of Apple and Samsung’s lawyers slugging it out, trying to land as many punches below the belt as possible. Apple has lifted the veil and in doing so, begun to destroy its own mystique and magic.

Until the broken patent system is fixed, prepare to see more of this.

Oh, and Samsung will continue to sell Apple components that make up 26% of each iPhone. Business as usual, then.