A Human’s Guide To The Apple Vs. Samsung Verdict

The most important trial ever that you think you don’t care about is over. The jury has declared Samsung in willful violation of multiple Apple patents, and awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages.

After less than a day deliberating, the jury in the Apple vs. Samsung patent trial — in which, essentially Apple alleged that Samsung copied certain aspects of the iPhone and iPad — has come to a verdict. So far, jurors have found Samsung in violation of a number of Apple’s patents, and just awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages. The Verge is liveblogging the reading of the verdict.

What an Apple victory could mean, among other things:

Companies will try that much harder to make sure their smartphones and tablets don’t look anything Apple’s, as The New York Times speculated last week.

Apple will likely be able to ink lucrative licensing deals with phone makers that will now fear similar litigation. This includes almost every other phone and tablet maker. Apple will also be allowed not to ink such deals, which would leave competitors in a very tight spot.

A boon for Windows Phone, which skirts at least some of the patents that Samsung ran afoul of with its Android phones. Scared hardware companies might take a second (third? fifth?) look at Microsoft’s slow-growing mobile OS.

Google may have to rethink elements of Android, which Samsung had to pay the price for due to its licensing and modification of the operating system. The software patents in particular could probably be used against any Android phone. (Indeed, Apple has gotten features removed from Android before, on similar grounds.) This was, in that sense, a proxy fight against Google.

We’re going to see some more, shall we say, bold design coming from gadget makers. This doesn’t necessarily mean it will be better. But novelty now has a specific numeric value to these companies.

We will have to talk about patent reform in a serious way. Some of these patents are basic enough that they call into question the value and practicality of software patents in general. One thing Samsung is paying Apple for using pinch-to-zoom in its products. This verdict will be a rallying cry.

There’s a bit of what sounds like hyperbole floating around, along the lines of Apple having “destroyed” Samsung. In the context of the trial, legally, this is basically true. But Samsung made over $4.5bn in profit during its last quarter, about $3bn of which came from mobile. The payout in this case it about 1/170th of Samsung’s market cap.

That said, this will change how Samsung and other companies compete with Apple, and likely make them far more timid – and at least somewhat less profitable. Samsung’s strategy of quickly and closely building on Apple’s successful concepts, while perhaps defensible (Apple does similar things sometimes!), is now dangerous.

The long-term bill for this case will be far, far higher.

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