Turns out Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team celebrated too soon when they took a big victory lap last summer after a jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages based on claims against Samsung.
Because the judge overseeing the case just tossed out almost half of that judgment — saying, in effect, that the jurors were a bunch of idiots who didn’t calculate damages correctly. And if Apple wants another crack at that money, it will have to go trial all over again. (In case you care, here's Judge Koh's actual ruling.)
It’s an amazing setback for Apple, but perhaps no big surprise. A lot of people right from the start seemed to realize that the jury in the case had done a lousy job by ruling too quickly without seeming to fully understand the laws it was charged with applying.
(See also: Apple's Thermonuclear Patent War Is A Farce)
Worse, this band of buffoons was led by a foreman, Velvin Hogan, who after the verdict went around giving interviews in which he revealed, over and over again, the many mistakes that he and his minions had made. Hogan indicated, for example, that the jury was trying to “send a message,” even though that wasn't its job. That was just one of many dumb moves on its part.
"Impermissible Legal Theory"
In her ruling today, Judge Lucy Koh said she was tossing out part of the judgment because the court had “identified an impermissible legal theory on which the jury based its award.”
Consequently, Koh ordered a new trial for damages on a bunch of Samsung products that Apple claimed infringed on its patents. The judge isn’t saying that the products don’t infringe, just that the jury didn’t follow the right procedure in calculating damages.
At the time of the verdict some observers noted that there seemed to be lots of problems with the jury’s decision. Nevertheless, Apple fanboys cheered. And Cook put out a ridiculous statement about how Apple wasn’t doing this for money, or to thwart competition, but because of “values.” (Gag me.) “We owe a debt of gratitude to the jury,” Cook wrote. “We applaud them for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”
Problem is that since then, some of Apple’s patents have been struck down as invalid because of "prior art," meaning other companies, not Apple, had invented the technologies involved.
To put this another way: Apple found stuff that other people had invented, tricked the patent office into granting Apple patents on that technology, then used those patents to file bogus claims against competitors.
Worse, Apple wasn't just hoping to squeeze money out of its competitors by collecting license fees. Apple wanted to drive its competitors out of business, so it could have the market to itself.
So much for “values.”
I pointed out in December that Apple’s “thermonuclear” patent war is turning out to be a farce. Apple’s claims have been laughed out of courts all around the world. In a few cases where Apple has won some minor victory, its claims have been so trivial that opponents developed workarounds in a matter of days.
Today’s news makes Apple look even more ridiculous and pathetic.
Worse, while Apple has been pursuing this quixotic legal quest, its rivals in the Android camp just keep gaining market share. Android now runs on 75% of smartphones. Even in tablets, Apple has seen its market share eroding at a stunning rate, thanks to the rise of Android.
All this started because Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, threw a temper tantrum and vowed to go “thermonuclear” on Google for daring to create a rival to the iPhone. Jobs might have been a genius, but he was also a bully and a spoiled brat who couldn’t stand the idea that he couldn’t have the smartphone market all to himself.
Jobs was wrong. And now he’s gone. It’s time for Apple to stop this bullshit. Settle the cases and go back to competing based on products. Supposedly Tim Cook never wanted to sue Samsung in the first place. Now’s his chance to step up and do the right thing.
Image courtesy of Reuters