The Hills Are Greener: Patent and Lawsuit Fatigue

The Hills Are Greener: Patent and Lawsuit Fatigue

Aug 27, 2012

I am sick and tired of the Apple and Android patent lawsuits. I am sick of reading about them. I am sick of ignorant commenters on each side of the issue spewing off about these cases that will ultimately end with no one the wiser about what is actually going on.

First off, Samsung’s billion dollar loss. A billion dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But the value of a billion dollars is different when the scale of a business is in the multi-billions. Samsung brought in 165 trillion won last year, which in today’s exchange rate converts to over $145 billion dollars. One billion dollars is less than 1% of that total. To scale it down to numbers relevant to normal people, that’s like making $350 less if you made $50,000 initially. You’re sad to see the money go, but it’s far from the end of the world. Heck, Samsung made an operating profit of $14.3 billion last year, so a billion for damages over a 2-year period of phone releases? Unless the judge triples the damages for willful infringement, this is the equivalent of Samsung stubbing their toe, while also having created one of the biggest line of smartphones in the world. Or as one commentator described it, with Apple spending $3.8 billion on Samsung parts in 2011, it’s basically a Groupon. It’s essentially one giant farce, multi-national global conglomerates showing off like hissing cats.

The consumer impact will be minimal. Very few of the phones in the trial are either current, or the kinds of ‘hero’ devices that really drive sales for Samsung. The Galaxy S II is the big victim, and Samsung’s already made the bulk of their money off of that. This largely hurts those looking for cheap and pre-paid Android phones, but that’s about it. The Galaxy Nexus nor the S III were part of this trial at all, and there’s evidence that Samsung is already leaning away from the kinds of designs that infringed on Apple’s trade dress. And licenses from Samsung and other Android players could be easily figured out, as it may just be cheaper to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s rather than stand up and fight.

And of course, with a lengthy appeals process ahead, there’s a chance that this verdict could ultimately mean nothing and we all just wasted our time following and/or caring about it, instead of really trying to reform the messed-up software patent system. The only changes we’ll see from cases like these are subtle on our end, the consumer end. The big companies will keep on making phones – perhaps slightly different than they were before – and we’ll keep buying them, and they’ll keep making billions in profits, while we then care about who’s fighting in court about who gets to increase that number of billions by 1, and who has to decrease it. I’m throwing my hands up in the air and giving up. There’s too much else to actually care about.