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Apple decisively wins Samsung trial: what it means

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After two and a half days of deliberations, the Apple vs. Samsung jury returned a decisive verdict in Apple's favor today — holding that Samsung owes Apple $1.05 billion for copying Apple's intellectual property. But what does it mean?

Samsung Copying Apple
Samsung Copying Apple

After two and a half days of deliberations, the Apple vs. Samsung jury returned a decisive verdict in Apple's favor today — holding that Samsung owes Apple $1.049 billion for copying Apple's intellectual property. Specifically, the jury found that all three of Apple's software patents on the iOS user interface were valid and infringed by a long list of Samsung devices, that Apple design patents were valid and infringed by several Samsung phones, and that Apple's trade dress on the iPhone and iPhone 3G were diluted by several Samsung phones as well.

On the other hand, Samsung lost every part of its case against Apple — the jury ruled that none of the Apple devices in the case infringe Samsung's patents, including patents that are part of the 3G networking standard. The only major decisions that went to Samsung were related to the iPad — the jury didn't think Samsung's tablets copied the iPad's design.

There is no way to interpret this as anything but a sweeping, definitive victory for Apple

Perhaps most importantly, the jury ruled that many of Samsung's infringements were "willful" — that is, the company deliberately copied Apple's patents. That's how they got to that $1.051 billion damage award; they punished Samsung for doing it on purpose.

There is no way to interpret this as anything but a sweeping, definitive victory for Apple.

The company spent most of the past month telling the jury that the iPhone was a revolution five years in the making, and that Samsung had taken just three months to copy it, without bearing any of the costs or risks involved. The jury clearly agreed — and most importantly, the jury agreed that all of Apple's patents are valid, even after Samsung spent hours trying to demonstrate prior art.

After this, the dominoes will begin falling fast. In the short term, expect Apple to seek sales injunctions against the accused devices that are still on sale — the Galaxy S II is still available around the world, for example, and the power of a jury verdict will make those requests very easy for Apple to pursue. We're also sure to see Samsung appeal many of the legal decisions made in the case, and it's all but certain Apple will appeal the jury's decision regarding the iPad's trade dress protectability. That's a big chip for it to win.

In the long term, we're sure to see lots of UI behaviors change across Android — most companies have already moved away from the bounceback scrolling behavior protected by the Apple patent in this case, and we're sure to see tap-to-zoom and multitouch scrolling behavior affected on new devices as well. We're also sure to see new handsets adopt highly differentiated designs, as Apple has proven both its design patent and trade dress claims are strong enough to persuade a jury. That's already happening, and it's a good thing; Samsung's the only phone maker Apple has sued for copying the iPhone's design, and its more recent devices like the Galaxy S III already have unique designs. More differentiation in the market is ultimately good for consumers.

Maybe it's time for Google to pay the money and let everyone go back to making cool shit

We're also hopefully going to see a lot of the outstanding litigation between Apple and other Android phone makers like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola settle — Apple's proven that its simple narrative about copying can lead to devastating results in a courtroom, and it's doubtful Samsung wants to go through this again with its outstanding lawsuits. It's also doubtful that any other company wants to risk the huge sums of money Samsung's spent on lawyers to lose in such a definitive way. We've always heard that Google has pushed its partners to settle these cases; we'll see if that advice finally gets taken.

And lastly, we'll see if this case can break the logjam between Apple and Google itself. Android is here to stay, and Apple actually gains very little by keeping so many lawsuits open and running — it has to pay for lawyers too. If this verdict gives Apple the extra leverage it needs to get Google to sign a blanket license for Android, then so be it. Maybe it's time to pay the money and let everyone go back to making cool shit.