What the Apple-Samsung verdict might mean

Soon 9 jurors will weigh in on the patent lawsuit, and they will likely shape the future of the smartphone market.

By TheWeek.com Aug 21, 2012 3:53PM

After a month of intense legal fighting, the so-called patent trial of the century is finally drawing to a close. Apple (AAPL) is demanding $2.5 billion in damages from Samsung (SSNLF) for creating devices that allegedly copy key features from the iPhone and iPad, while the Korean manufacturer is counter-suing to the tune of $422 million.

Late Monday, the CEOs of both companies met privately, hoping to settle the case before the start of closing arguments on Tuesday, but failed to reach an agreement. That leaves it up to nine jury members in a five-story San Jose courthouse to decide. 

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What would a victory for either Apple or Samsung mean for you? Here, a brief guide to the landmark case's potential outcomes:

What does Apple allege?
Apple argues that Samsung aped its product design (including actual hardware like touchscreens), software features (like icons and unlock screens), and goodies related to wireless-communications standards. Apple has aggressively enlisted its executives and "a whole suite of experts" to take the stand and defend the "uniqueness" of the iPhone and the iPad, says Jessica E. Vascellaro at The Wall Street Journal. Samsung asserts that its designs were in the works long before Apple began working on the iPhone.

What will jurors be deciding?
The preliminary version of the jury form is 22 pages and loaded with questions, charts, and check boxes. Jurors are being asked to "indicate which devices infringe which patents and claims -- if any," says Bryan Bishop at The Verge. Along the way they'll also be asked to weigh in on "slightly more nebulous questions, like whether claims within the patents from both sides are valid," says Josh Lowensohn at CNET, "and the all-important dollar amount that one side or the other is owed as the result of any infringements."

What would an Apple victory mean?
"Apple wants an order permanently barring Samsung, the largest maker of Android smartphones, from selling products in the United States that violate its patents," says Nick Wingfield at The New York Times. Of course, if Apple got its wish, the smartphone market would be drastically altered. And although Apple is going after just Samsung, the case could have broad implications throughout the industry, namely for other phone-makers utilizing Google's Android operating system. A win would give Apple extra ammunition to aggressively pursue other Android makers with similar patent lawsuits. Indeed, an Apple victory could lead to a "diversification of designs in the marketplace," as competitors try to avoid incurring Apple's legal wrath, says intellectual property lawyer Christopher V. Carani. 

What happens if Samsung wins? 
A decision favoring Samsung would potentially create "a consensus around Apple-like designs for years to come," says The New York Times' Wingfield. "Expect to see an awful lot of Apple knockoffs without fear of retribution," says Michael Gartenberg, a technology analyst at Gartner. I disagree, says James Allworth at Harvard Business Review. As they say: "Great innovations often build on existing ones — and that requires the freedom to copy." Some might call what Samsung's doing a rip-off. "But to me, it sounds like a perfectly functioning competitive market."

More from The Week

Tags: AAPL
Aug 21, 2012 7:21PM
If Apple wins, Microsoft wins as Samsung moves all consumer hardware from Android to Windows 8 and Google loses. If Apple loses, Google wins and Samsung will continue to crsuh Apple with both Android and Windows 8 devices. Either way, Apple loses.
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