After winning a blockbuster patent-damages award against Samsung last year, Apple saw its lopsided legal victory significantly detuned after the judge ruled that the original $1.05 billion award was horribly miscalculated. So, after a short second trial, the case is before a second jury, and the question this time isn't whether Samsung is guilty of copying Apple's products, but how much it owes for doing so.
Imagine being the lawyers tasked with making the argument that, yes, Samsung is guilty. But it's not that guilty.
Apple now believes that Samsung should be fined $380 million for copying the designs of its iPhone and iPad devices. Samsung is arguing for a smaller, $52 million fine. But regardless of where the jury ends up, either figure is pocket change for Samsung, which is closing in on Apple as the most profitable handset maker in the world. (It's been the biggest since last year.) And both figures are likewise a far cry from the $1.05 billion Apple thought it won when the first jury handed it a crazy legal victory in 2012, and from the $2.5 billion that Apple original sought.
The original case was notable because it's rare for such a high-profile case to go to court. Apple had sued Samsung in 2011 for willfully copying the designs of its iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet in the creation of its respective competing devices. Samsung, of course, argued that Apple had copied previous designs itself, and thus Samsung couldn't be found guilty of copying Apple. Many expected the firms to settle before damaging internal information was made public, and indeed Judge Lucy Koh publicly and privately pressed them to do so. But that never happened.
For the retrial, the emphasis has moved from whether Samsung copied Apple to how badly that copying impacted Apple. But although that seems to hand Apple a stronger position, give credit to Samsung lawyer Bill Price for coming up with the quip of the week.
"These patents are very narrow," he said, referencing the often debatable Apple patents that stand at the heart of the case. "Apple doesn't own beautiful and sexy." Fair enough, but Apple does kind of own beautiful and sexy: After losing to Apple previously, Samsung had to redesign its full-sized tablet so that it wasn't as similar to the iPad. The result is a decidedly plain-looking device.
And here's some good news for fans of the patent wars: This affair is just the preview for a larger legal battle that will play out next year. That's when a second Apple vs. Samsung case will be presented before a jury, this time for newer versions of the iPad and iPhone.