Aug 17, 2012

Samsung vs Apple vs Samsung - What next?

 If my own servant could not believe my innocence, how could I hope to make it good before twelve foolish tradesmen in a jury-box? - Quote from the "Sign of Four" a Sherlock Holmes tale by Arthur Conan Doyle

Geeks and non-geeks alike showed a lot of interest in this particular lawsuit.  It has been fun watching all the legal fireworks. Just as it happened with the Oracle vs Google trial, we are at a critical phase.

What will happen?

Predicting outcome in such cases, involving jury trial, even with complete knowledge of facts and law is a dangerous game. Anything can happen. We can only weigh the various possible outcomes, given what we have seen reported in the media, and put some rough guestimates to them.

1. CEOs will meet, talk and settle

While chances are low, this can still happen. Apple may decide it is not going to get much by way of leverage , at best a few millions, which is pocket change anyway. Samsung may realise too that fighting lawsuits in an alien country where they have to fly in Korean speaking staff who need translators and so forth is not really easy.

If they do settle, it will be to preserve their overall relationship which is worth a lot more than what this trial is about. While both can find other partners, costs go up when you rule out one big player and mark him as an enemy.

Probability - less than 2 in 10.

2. Apple wins, big, gets the entire $2.5b it wanted

Apple getting a large financial settlement and/or an injunction against CURRENT and POPULAR models, not ones that are anyway dead or outdated is surely one possible outcome. But the most recent and popular models are not even part of this lawsuit. And in any case, Samsung will learn and has probably already learnt the lesson and remove offending features, like others did.

That only leaves money on the table - chances of Apple getting the $2.5b it asked for are about as much as Oracle getting the $6b it wanted against Google - zilch. Because it is inevitable that Apple's team would have painted the numbers and the judge will trim it down. Even that reduced number will be apportioned towards offending aspects. A few hundred millions, enough to embarrass but not kill Samsung, is probably what you can expect.

And we are not even talking about appeals here.

Probability - less than 2 in 10

3. Samsung wins, big, along the lines of Google in the Oracle trial, pays nothing

Samsung has thrown a few spanner in the works - prior arts claims, which appear extremely credible, tablet designs that pre-date IPAD launch, dramatic testimony by the Korean designer who missed feeding her baby because she was too busy designing phones..any female juror balancing her career with domestic life will surely nod her head in understanding.

When the whole thing is listed down and debits and credits are tallied and reconciled by jurors, who are by no means patent experts or tech gurus, I suspect there will be one or two jurors who will either rebel or force moderation of any verdict.

Remember, it has to be unanimous - or nothing.

Probability - 5 out of 10

4. Apple wins, but not a huge victory. Life goes on.

Apple has a few smoking guns - the superficial similarity of the phones with Apple's models (assuming prior art defence collapses), emails from Google and so forth. I seriously don't think so called smoking guns about Samsung's internal comparisons will matter because firms do that all the time. That is brainstorming, benchmarking and rallying the troops.

Samsung's defence has been fairly strong too. See (3) above. They are known in the states as a strong tech company that designs great products - LCD TVs, monitors and so forth. No reasonable judge will treat Samsung the way a Chinese copycat will be treated. Although that is the impression Apple seeks to leave in the marketplace.

So it is entirely possible that jury will grant a theoretical victory to Apple but in the damages phase, when all things are considered, the judge will give Apple much less than what it wanted. And we all know how greedy Apple has been.

And in any appeal, Samsung will most likely get to present the F700 model it was not allowed to present in this trial because it was too late. That will surely boost its case. It looks a lot like IPHONE before IPHONE was launched.

Probability - 6 out of 10

Let us wait for the result...

No comments: