Samsung hit with $1,049,343,540 verdict in Apple lawsuit; maybe Palm could have helped?
Today was an unexpectedly exciting day in the mobile technology space, though we in the webOS Nation were pretty much bystanders as the epic battle of Apple vs. Samsung (Case no. 11-CV-01846-LHK in the US District Court, Northern District of California) came to a close after three days of jury deliberations. The end result: Samsung's legal case was obliterated by the jury. They found that Samsung had willfully infringed on 5 of the 6 patents Apple sued over, that Apple's design and utility patents were indeed valid, that Samsung's infringement had indeed cost Apple money, and that Samsung had violated antitrust laws regarding monopolization of the UMTS standard. Every single one of Samsung's claims against Apple were declined. Damages owed by Samsung to Apple: $1,049,343,540. That's $1.05 billion - with a b.
The verdict in this case is both a victory and a defeat for the tech world. It's a victory for those who believe in diversified design and protecting intellectual property rights. But it's a defeat that Apple was able to defend and extract damages from a patent on a gird of colorful rounded squares as an app launcher (among others). Don't get us wrong, it's our considered not-legal opinion that Samsung did willingly infringe on Apple's design language, and for that they should be punished. You don't clone your competitor's patented designs. At least if you don't want to pay a billion dollar fine for having done so.
The questions some are asking tonight is "did it have to come to this?" And no, it didn't. Apple and Samsung could have settled out-of-court, but both were too indignant about the whole ordeal to actually come to an agreement of any sort. And, of course, Samsung could have just not willfully infringed upon Apple's designs and none of this would have happened. But was there another way out, a way Samsung could have had a nuclear deterrent to push back against Apple's threat of thermonuclear war?
Turns out that the opportunity presented itself not once, but twice in the past few years. We're talking about Palm and webOS. While Samsung wasn't an active part of the conversation surrounding the sale of Palm back in early 2010 (HP eventually emerged as the sole serious contender), Samsung was mentioned a few times when HP was trying to offload webOS just a 18 months later.
Samsung's CEO shot down the rumors of Samsung purchasing webOS, saying that they would "never" pursue the operating system. With the asking price of $1.2 billion, maybe they should have? The thing is, webOS has oodles of patents of its own that Samsung could have used to fight back against Apple, plus Palm has a long legacy of foundational patents with which Samsung may have been able to extract damages from Apple.
When you add in Samsung's legal fees, which we have no doubt are likely in the tens of millions, plus the negative press they've been receiving and will continue to receive, they may well have come out ahead even if they'd purchased webOS for the $1.2 billion just for the patents. Of course, we would have preferred Samsung have actually done something with webOS if they'd bought it, like putting it on those tens of millions of devices they sell each quarter. So long as they didn't dress it up to look like an iPhone, that is.