In a sense, the ruling against Samsung in its patent war with Apple is not so momentous. The financial fine, despite being 840 million euros, is less than half of what Apple originally requested.
And this fine isn’t going to ruin Samsung: The Korean manufacturing giant made a profit of $ 4.5 million in the latest quarter, 63 percent of which came from its mobile business. So the penalty equates to about half of the company’s moving quarter earnings.
Furthermore, of the products that the jury found to be in violation of Apple patents, only the Nexus S 4G and the Galaxy S II are still being sold. Other devices in Samsung’s current product line may be safe, thanks to the design changes that Samsung has introduced in the wake of the Galaxy S II.
Those changes were probably made as a defense, to protect Samsung in case of lawsuits like this one, which Apple filed in April 2011. Many of the infractions that the jury cites in the verdict focus on user interface elements TouchWiz, which for the most part are no longer used.
Innovate or pay
Friday’s ruling may not be the last word on the matter, as Samsung can appeal the ruling. But while the immediate effects may not be as dramatic, the long-term consequences could be.
For one thing, the jury doesn’t just find that Samsung infringed Apple’s patents. He declared that Apple’s patents are valid. That, in turn, should put Samsung and other smartphone makers on notice: They should steer clear of anything resembling an Apple design.
“Apple has achieved something important,” says industry analyst Tim Bajarin. “Samsung and other manufacturers are going to have to think twice about doing things like icons and other design elements. Google has to be very concerned about this. “
Garnter analyst Michael Gartenberg speaks similarly. “The biggest consequences will be for other sellers who will have to carefully examine their designs after the verdict.”
Something that can have a good consequence: Suppliers will be forced to innovate, if only to avoid a lawsuit from Apple.
“We hope that consumers win in the long term,” Bajarin said, “because the Samsung and HTC of the world will have to be more creative.”
“Apple’s patents have been deemed valid, which will force the industry to move toward innovation and differentiation,” agreed Gartenberg.