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Apple v Samsung: Five experts, five questions

Martyn Williams | Aug. 23, 2012
As a nine-person jury begins deliberations in the closely watched patent trial between Apple and Samsung, the companies and their lawyers are left waiting and wondering what the jury made of the three weeks of arguments.

Mark McKenna: I think most people thought it would settle, but Apple has been pretty fiery on record about wanting to destroy its competitors, so I'm not totally surprised that they couldn't reach agreement. I think Samsung's claims would have settled if they were standing alone, because that's just about the amount of money Apple needs to pay. But if they can't settle Apple's claims, then it doesn't make sense for Samsung not to keep its own claims alive. Is it risky to go to a jury? Sure, but sometimes you don't have a choice if you're fundamentally disagreeing.

Q4. This is one of a growing number of patent infringement suits between major tech companies. Does this parade of litigation say more about the U.S. patent process or the high level of competition in the gadget market?

Charles Golvin: I believe it says more about the market itself. We are undergoing a radical shift in computing and these devices frame the future landscape of competition -- not just for devices but for applications, content, services and commerce. There are monumental stakes involved, well beyond the billions in revenue from the sale of the gadgets themselves. 

Mark McKenna: The smartphone wars are an indictment of the patent system generally. There are too many patents, and those patents often have fuzzy and overlapping boundaries. The big companies eventually will find a way to settle most of these claims, likely by engaging in lots of cross-licensing. But the situation is much harder for newer and/or smaller firms who want to get into this space. To do so, you need to have or buy a ton of patents (or at least some really important ones), and you need to be prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on litigation. That's not good for the industry or for consumers. It's really only good for lawyers.

Bill Panagos: Both. The U.S. patent process is set up to reward innovation and risk-taking to encourage "the progress of the useful arts and sciences." As all economies converge into the global economy, the patent process will increasingly become the defining factor in domination of world markets, as well as in leadership in technological endeavors.

Q5. On Tuesday, Apple portrayed this decision as something that could affect innovation in the U.S. while Samsung said it was a use of the law to stifle competition. Is any of that true?

Mark McKenna: You always have to take closing arguments with a grain of salt -- it's performance theater, and the lawyers know that making their client look good, and the other party look bad, is the name of the game. My own view is that it's pretty unlikely that a verdict against Apple negatively impacts innovation. What they're claiming isn't especially innovative, and most of Apple's value is its brand, which isn't affected by this. How much it affects competition if Apple wins is a function of how easily other companies can design around Apple's design without losing function or appeal to consumers. Given how basic the design is to which patent claims rights, I'm inclined to think a judgment in its favor is a much bigger deal and would have a bigger effect on competition.



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