An Ivy League professor of economics and finance says Apple grossly miscalculated how much its patents are worth when compared with the billions it now wants from Samsung as part of the latest court battle between the two companies. She even used Apple's own accounting math for iOS releases to help drive home the idea that patents for particular features should cost just a few cents apiece.
In testimony today, Judith Chevalier, a professor of finance and economics at Yale, said the reasonable royalties — the amount the two companies might have agreed on in theoretical negotiations — should be $1.75 per device sold, a figure that's far lower than the $40 Apple has asked for. Chevalier said she came to that total after analyzing both professional and consumer reviews of the products in this case, breaking down if and when those particular features were mentioned.
35 cents a feature
Citing an original study about user purchasing behavior, Chevalier noted that more than half of people get information about smartphones from technology news sites and review sites, making this a good indicator of determining which features stand out. That prompted her to analyze 66 professional reviews from 22 "leading" media outlets, including The Verge. In her findings, the five combined patented features were mentioned in 1.07 percent of all of the sentences, with the majority of those mentions belonging to universal search and slide-to-unlock, two Apple patents it's accused Samsung of copying.
"The value created by these patents is very negligible," Chevalier told the jury, adding that other features like screen quality and processing speed cropped up far more frequently.
Apple's own accounting says features are a nickel
Chevalier also pointed to Apple's accounting for each of its annual iOS software updates since 2009, as an example of how the company values these features. Apple pegs between "100+" and "200+" new features in each of its releases, and has marked them down as $10 to $25 per device in deferred revenue. Dividing the number of features, Chevalier claimed you could classify these features, on average, as costing 5 to 25 cents per feature.
Whichever side the jury believes is key in this case, where millions to billions of dollars are at stake. Apple's asking for $2.191 billion in damages, while Samsung's turned around and sued Apple back for $6.9 million. All of that centers on a set of seven patents — two that belong to Samsung, and the other five to Apple — which both companies say were used in millions products sold since 2011. Based on Chevalier's estimates, Samsung would be on the hook for $38.4 million, and not $2.191 billion — that's assuming the jury goes with Apple.
Chevalier's testimony follows one from Apple's damages expert Chris Vellturo two weeks ago, whose firm spent 4,000 to 5,000 hours of research and analysis. That analysis took into account a survey that claimed consumers would be willing to pay $32 to $102 for certain Apple patented features like universal search, automatic word correction, and sliding to unlock — a core part of Apple's argument that the five features it's suing over contribute to the feel of the user experience.
The jury begins deciding next week
This is the fourth and possibly final week of the trial before it's handed over to a jury to decide. Both companies are running low on time ahead of closing arguments, which are scheduled for early next week. Last week Samsung spent the majority of its three full court days attempting to pick apart at Apple's patents, bringing in experts who said those patents should be invalid, and were ultimately unimportant features. The week before that, Apple rested its case after spending the better part of two weeks calling on a string of witnesses and key employees to make the case that they invented the features.
Samsung just rested its defensive case against Apple, and now plans to go after it for two patents of its own. One of those covers video capture and compression sent over the phone, and another that covers photo galleries.