How Apple’s Victory Will Affect You

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 25 2012 12:14 PM

What Does Apple’s Big Victory Against Samsung Mean for Consumers?

129920264
A Samsung phone and an iPhone 4

Photo by DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images

So, Apple won. That was expected. What came as a surprise—besides how shockingly quickly jurors seemed to be able to answer hundreds of complex technical questions—was what a sweeping victory it really was for the world’s most valuable company. Jurors handed Apple $1.05 billion in damages, ruling that the South Korean firm infringed on Apple patents. Even if it is technically less than half of the $2.5 billion it was seeking, as Reuters notes, it's a big win for the Silicon Valley company in part because Samsung’s countersuit was an utter failure.

As the Verge explains, “Samsung lost every part of its case against Apple” and its only consolation was that the jury didn’t think Samsung’s tablets copied the iPad’s design. But the verdict is hardly the end of the story as the judge could triple the damages since the jury found that the infringement was willful. In addition, Judge Lucy Koh still has to decide whether to order Samsung to remove infringing products off the shelves, notes the Wall Street Journal. And that’s not to mention the appeals that will be filed. But for consumers, will the verdict translate into fewer choices or more variety? Probably both.

Advertisement

Samsung’s response to the verdict was defiant. The verdict “should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung said. “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices.” Samsung insists its schedule to release new products won’t be altered and the company has been able to quickly figure out workarounds in the past, notes Bloomberg.

Is Samsung right? Probably, at least in the short term. There’s little doubt the verdict gives Apple more ammunition to fight back against the rise of Google’s Android, but some optimists see this as potentially good news that will bring about more variety to a smartphone market that has been depressingly trending toward uniformity.

“Get ready for the Apple tax,” warns the Wall Street Journal. At least in the short-term, producing smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices will likely get more expensive. And consumers are likely to have fewer smartphone options, notes the Associated Press. After all, the verdict only affects Samsung, but it is a clear warning to other manufacturers who produce similar devices.

That’s the glass-half-empty way of looking at the world. The verdict could ultimately be good news for consumers, forcing manufacturers to create handsets that are markedly different from the iPhone, writes Bloomberg. For now though there's little doubt, Apple will be able to squeeze “even more profit out of an industry it already dominates,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

The biggest loser in the case might not be Samsung, but Google, the company some analysts say Apple was targeting all along, as the New York Times points out. And Microsoft could end up being a collateral winner from all this. Bill Cox, senior marketing director for the Windows Phone, quipped on Twitter: “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now.”

Taking a look at the big picture, consumers could certainly come out the winners if the high-profile case helps to spur much-needed reform in U.S. intellectual property law. But that hardly looks likely in the near future.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.