Apple just got the most expensive court room win ever: Pyrrhic victory

 This case should never have reached a jury court, but the verdict is in. One billion dollar in damages although the jury was just sent back to recalculate it as judge Koh noticed some errors. 

By all means this is a commercial conflict with a worldwide impact, but it ended up before nine ordinary citizens, laymen, two women and seven man who were asked to answer a very long list of detailed questions on very technical stuff. They were treated to endless streams of expert witnesses and the few journalist who reported from the court room often noticed ´jury looks blank while expert goes on an on´.

Patents, an important part of this court case are extremely dull material. You need to read every sentence of dense technical and legal documents, look at that description and check if no prior art was found which again is not easy to do as the devil is again in the details. Patent experts are often unsure what should be the verdict; a jury of ordinary citizens has a hard time even following the argument. 

So the jury didn´t. They ignored all that stuff when a document surfaced where Samsung itself said it had to study and copy Apple´s success. Do note that it didnt´t say ´copy Apple´s devices´ but it´s easy to pick up that message so they did and skipped all those boring details and just said yes to all accusations of patent violations by Samsung.

That same jury was also asked if Samsung damaged the iPhone ´trade dress´. Now this is a lot easier for laymen. Did Samsung copy the look and feel of iPhones to create consumers with consumers? Suddenly the jurors woke up: this was their territory and no, they didn´t feel consumers would not be capable to see the differences. They skipped two questions and answered the other two with a mixture of yes on some models and no on others. Home turf.

That´s jurors territory: look and feel and consumer perception, not the technical implementations of patents like ´381 which describes the bounce back at the end of list. That patent has been discussed by professional judges and is not even considered a safe Apple asset.

The jury ignored all that boring stuff and fell asleep when Samsung countered with claims about the details of 3G and UMTS implementations. The witnesses were nerdy professors who were hard to follow so these claims were refused out of hand.

What happened is that a huge commercial conflict ended up in a completely wrong setting. Judge Koh has done everything to keep this out of her court and get the parties to solve this at a boardroom table. Jurors can´t decide this conflict and this will certainly go to an appeal court with possibly different, but also inherently false outcomes.

False because these same questions will also be addressed outside of the US where juries are rare and professional judges will decide completely different. They will study the prior art and take note of all the witness statements. Net result: it will take at least another half year before some o the worldwide dust settles and meanwhile models of both parties will be temporarily banned from sales in some regions.

 Meanwhile this and the other high profile cases outside of the US will damage Apple´s image enormously. Remember when an iPhone was cool? If an expert in 2010 would have testified about Apple´s brand image the taxation would have been in the tens, possibly hundreds of billions.  

That same image in 2012 is tarnished. A company which doesn´t innovate (the 4s only brought the already forgotten SIRI) but tries to monopolize both the smart phone and the tablet sector by using lawyers is not cool at all.

When Samsung has to withdraw its products, consumers will feel duped. They lost their choice and they will blame Apple as Samsung will surely drive that point home; is that worth $1.05 billion?

The answer is in the market share: Samsung surpassed Apple a long time ago and even in the last stronghold, - the US -, are the high-end Samsungs outselling the iPhone.

A brand which didn´t have to spend money on advertising will suddenly find the need to rebuild an image. Marketeers can tell you this is so hard that most companies never succeed. Those who did, spend an awful lot of money doing so. The $1 billion won´t cover that bill. 

Steve Jobs´ Apple did bet on a legal monopoly and for a few weeks they could possibly have one in the US. Apple reckoned that if a judge would tell it, the consumers would sympathize with Apple; victim of ´slavishly copying it´s success; the real 2012 is very different. Lawyers are not cool; underdogs are so this will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory.
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