Apple v Samsung

Apple v Samsung – the saga continues….

Apple v Samsung

Last week a decision was made in the case of Apple v Samsung in the war for smart phone users.  Apple won its patent court case against Samsung and has been granted just over $1 billion.  So is that the end of it?  It’s not even the start of the end!!  Samsung have already filed their appeal. 

This clash of the two top players in smart phones and tablets has been a very public dispute, but what are the key points of the case so far and what questions are still not answered?  Here’s my take:

Why did Apple bring this case?  Apple is almost unique in software manufacturers in that it has never licensed its technology.  As such, with the design and usability being the only reason to buy an iPhone, they are going to defend their USP fiercely.  It is this which allows Apple to charge premium prices for the iPhone. 

Why did Apple win?  There were two key pieces of evidence to support Apple’s case.  Firstly, a senior Samsung executive sent an email to the smart phone design team giving the direction to make the products more closely remember the iPhone – banged to rights!  Secondly, an email from Google appeared telling Samsung that their current portfolio was too close to the iPhone. 

$1 billion is a decent settlement, right?  No!  Apple originally filed for $2.5 billion, so they have only got 40% of what they asked for.  Also, given the fact that the case was fought in America, Apple’s home turf, this settlement is not seen as an overwhelming endorsement of Apple’s case.

How can Samsung appeal?  Intellectual property cases are notoriously complex, and documents released by the court show that procedures that the jury had to follow were not followed correctly.  This is a good basis for the appeal.  There is also an argument that the jury should be made of intellectual property experts to fully understand the issues of the case, so an appeal looks very likely. 

Why buy an Apple product?  Apple have admitted that Apple and Samsung products are very similar, so why would consumers pay more for an Apple product?  There are reasons why people would – it is regarded as a cool brand, and they are often innovators in the mobile market, so people want to be associated with Apple.  But if you can get a similar product for less, does the power of Apple’s brand outweigh this?

What happens next?  Well, it’s pretty clear to me that the appeal will be granted and we start all over again.  But there are broader questions to answer. 

  • Will a final settlement in Apple’s favour mean that Samsung will raise the prices of their products?  Will they take on Apple head-to-head at the premium end of the market? 
  • Apple prides itself in being a pioneer for new smart phone and mobile features.  But are they features of an Apple phone or are they features of a smart phone?  Should ‘pinch to zoom’ be classified as an Apple feature or have they just pioneered a feature which is reasonable to use on all smart phones?  This is a particularly poignant as Apple claims that rectangular phones with smoothed corners are an Apple design, and not to be copied!

The case has highlighted a number of issues, but the really interesting questions for marketers are still yet to be answered.  I will be tracking the case and providing updates ongoing, so make sure you check back soon. 

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