Apple vs Samsung Trial: Discerning Fact from Opinion

I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of talk from all sorts of people about the recent court case between Apple and Samsung, where Samsung lost to Apple for copying the iPhone, even from people whom have never shown interest in technology stories. There is a great lesson about how people make judgements very quickly these days that I believe can be learnt from all this. Before that, however, here’s my thought on the case: I believe Samsung deserved to lose this case, and they lost fairly. That said, I don’t deny that the case was silly to begin with, and the patent system is currently messed up.

Disclaimer: I’m no lawyer. I’m just sharing what I learnt. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

TheVerge.com’s Coverage

While most people only got to hear that the trial was going on, and that Samsung lost, I was curious enough to follow this trial. Partly also because The Verge provided enough facts that made it interesting to follow and much to learn from. While they shared a bit of their opinions in their podcasts, they also shared a lot of facts throughout, giving you an insight to what was going on, and letting you decide.

The thing that The Verge did that others didn’t do was have 3 lawyers cover the story. While they might not all have been patent lawyers, they at least knew enough to be asking the right questions. They also explained a lot of what happens in a trial, like how Apple and Samsung got their evidences, and how this case wasn’t simply a patent claim, but also a trade dress claim.

If you want to check out their coverage, which I highly recommend, follow this link. You should also listen to the VergeCast, where Nilay explains a lot of how the trial works to the ones who didn’t know.

Trade Dress

One thing I learnt while following the story with The Verge was that this wasn’t just about the patents, but it was also about Trade Dress. In this extremely insightful guide to the whole trial, The Verge describes trade dress as “the elements of a product design that indicate it came from a certain brand or company.”

Samsung had it coming for them

If you had followed the court case day by day, you would have realised that Samsung’s chances of winning the case was getting slimmer by the day for 2 reasons:

1. The evidence was against them

Before the debates began in the courtroom, both Apple and Samsung had the opportunity to dig up evidences from each other. That’s how Samsung managed to dig up all the iPhone and iPad prototypes, and internal emails. Apple, on the other hand, dug up evidences that were quite damning for Samsung.

The biggest evidence was this 132-page document where Samsung was comparing the Galaxy S with the iPhone feature for feature. This wasn’t a specifications comparison. This was a super detailed design by design element comparison such as the sound the iPhone makes when you set the clock’s time, followed by how the Galaxy S lacked it, then the conclusion was how Samsung needed to add that. One page looks kinda bad on Samsung. But a 132 pages?

2. Samsung’s lawyers were shown to be manipulative

You’d think Samsung would be wiser than to piss the judge or the jury off in court by manipulating the court, but for some reason they kept thinking the risk was worth it. Unfortunately for them, they keep getting caught:

I don’t know about you, but it looked like Samsung had it for them. In fact, if you listen to The VergeCast, you’ll hear them talk about how the general theme in the courtroom was that Samsung’s laywers didn’t have a consistent strategy at all.

 

So Samsung did copy. Law aside, is that a bad thing?

Nothing is created. Everything is an inspiration of something else. Yes, Samsung did indeed copy Apple’s iPhone. When we received the first Galaxy S to test at Tech65, it was so obvious we didn’t need a court case to tell us that. But is that really a bad thing? It’d be quite unfair if someone discovered a way to make a proper design, and everyone else had to stick with old broken designs. 

That said, patents give people reason to innovate. Without which, there’s no motivation to if anything people invented becomes dilluted quickly. The solution that I like the most so far isn’t to abolish software and design patents altogether, but to shorten the validity significantly such that it expires within a few years. Reward the innovator, then let everyone else improve together. (I believe Nilay Patel from the verge came up with this idea too)

“You didn’t sit the Jury, you didn’t sit in the courtroom”

Even with all of these info, my opinion might be wrong. After all, I wasn’t there when it happened, and I didn’t study law. What more if you hadn’t been reading the facts of what was going on in that court room?

I’m starting to see a trend where people are making quick judgements about situations, and the media isn’t helping. We really need to start thinking things through a lot more before we say stuff about others, and making sure what we’re reading is fact or opinion. If we’re not prepared to do all that thinking and learning, then I think we shouldn’t speak about it, lest we end up spreading biased opinions everywhere.

A side plug

That’s why I created Gear65 the way it is. We can share our opinion, but by showing you the gadget up close in HD video, and us clicking through the user interface and features, you, the viewer, gets to decide what’s fact, what’s opinion, and decide based on your own needs if the gadget is for you. That’s why we never score gadgets. 

I’m open to hear your opinion and your views, provided you’re objective is to discuss with an open mind, and be prepared to admit that you might be wrong, because I’m prepared to do the same. 

 

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