Apple win badly hurts Samsung
(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY A jury just awarded Apple (AAPL) $1.05 billion in damages in its patent case against Samsung. This is a huge victory for Apple that will likely keep at least one major Samsung product out of the U.S. market. And yet, it does not completely undermine Google's (GOOG) strategic plans because of the nature of the patents in the case.
The jury found that Samsung had infringed on six out of seven patents that Apple had asserted in the trial, according to the Wall Street Journal. The one patent that Samsung was found not to have infringed on covered the physical look of the iPad. The others covered Apple developments including the look of on-screen icons and detection of finger gestures. Samsung had counter-sued with its own patents, but the jury found Apple infringed on none of them.
A number of market observers have wondered whether Apple's legal drive to attack Google's Android mobile operating system -- now the most widely used in the world through the search giant's hardware partners -- would work. Based on this, the answer is yes and no.
Samsung has pulled ahead as the premier Android device manufacturer, likely outselling Apple in number of units. (It is difficult to know for sure, as Samsung no longer publicly reports unit sales.) Anything that could slow down the Korean electronics company will hurt Google.
However, Samsung's loss was based not on intrinsic issues of Android, but on an extensive company paper trail the jury took to mean that it had deliberately set out to copy the iPhone. The combination of that, and Samsung design choices that allegedly caused consumer confusion between products of the two companies, were the key to Apple's victory.
It is a fairly sure bet that Samsung will appeal the ruling that that the case could drag on much longer.
The $1.05 billion award will hurt Samsung, though it's hardly a crippling blow. Samsung's total profits (including all divisions, not just mobile) for the first quarter of 2012 were more than $5 billion. Far more problematic is the injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet that the judge granted Apple. Apple might now be able to move to exclude more Samsung products from the vital U.S. market.
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