A federal jury in California awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages on Friday in a sweeping legal victory against rival Samsung. The verdict, which came much more quickly than expected, saw Apple prevail in six of its seven patent-infringement claims against Samsung. Curiously, Samsung was found innocent of copying Apple’s design for the iPad, a charge many considered central to the case.
“This lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money,” Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter to employees. “It’s about values. We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on Earth. And we do this to delight our customers, not for competitors to flagrantly copy.”
Apple had sought $2.5 billion in damages, while Samsung was seeking $422 million as part of a countersuit. The jury didn’t award Samsung anything.
The jury deliberated for only 22 hours over 3 days—far less time than expected. The jury found that all seven of the contested Apple patents in the case were valid, although Samsung violated only six of them. (Apparently, Samsung’s argument that Apple doesn’t own “a rectangle with rounded corners” carried at least some weight with jurors.)
Though Apple claimed that almost 30 Samsung products violated its patents, Samsung won't need to change any of its products as a result of the verdict. However, the sweeping Apple victory is expected to influence future product designs from various companies and help ensure that Apple’s iconic designs remain its own.
Samsung announced that it would appeal the verdict. In a memo to employees, the company—which dominates Apple and the rest of the industry in the smartphone market—noted that the verdict, made in Apple’s home state of California, flew in the face of decisions made by courts in many other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Korea.
“We initially proposed to negotiate with Apple instead of going to court, as they had been one of our most important customers,” the memo reads, hinting that Samsung might force Apple to find parts supplies for its iPhone and iPad elsewhere. “However, Apple pressed on with a lawsuit, and we have had little choice but to countersue, so that we can protect our company.”
Of course, Apple’s suit against Samsung was more generally about Android, Google’s me-too smartphone and tablet platform. Apple has explicitly called out Android as a copy-cat platform that has stolen its ideas. But Google says it has nothing to fear from this verdict.
"Most of [the patent infringements] don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office,” a Google statement notes. “The mobile industry is moving fast and all players—including newcomers—are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don't want anything to limit that.”
Microsoft, meanwhile, was quick to leap on the verdict as an endorsement of Windows Phone, which doesn’t infringe on Apple’s products, thanks to a cross-licensing agreement. (Apple likewise promises not to copy Microsoft’s products.) “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now,” Microsoft Senior Director of Windows Phone Marketing Communications Bill Cox tweeted late Friday.
But quips aside, it’s pretty clear that Microsoft and—by extension—Nokia (its biggest partner) are in fact looking good right now: Thanks to that agreement with Apple, Microsoft’s innovative Windows Phone OS cannot be copied by Apple, ensuring that the Cupertino company’s products will remain inferior from technical and usability perspectives going forward. Likewise, Windows Phone doesn't infringe on Apple’s patents, so Apple can’t retaliate against Windows Phone as it has against Android.
With Microsoft/Nokia as perhaps the biggest winners in this case, it’s natural to wonder who the biggest loser is. And as Samsung noted in the wake of the verdict, it’s not that firm: It’s the consumers who buy these contested products.
“[This decision] will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices,” a Samsung statement notes. “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies.”
Note: This article has been updated with new information since it was originally posted.