Intellectual Property, Litigators, Litigatrix, Patents, Screw-Ups, Susan Estrich, Technology, Trials

What’s Really at Stake In Apple v. Samsung?

So, the Apple v. Samsung trial is on break for one more day, but that doesn’t mean the digital drama is fading. The trial has become ubiquitous in the news. We’ve got a clip from Conan O’Brien mocking opining on the proceedings… or more specifically, Samsung. And we’ve got word that another Quinn Emanuel partner is in the hot seat.

UPDATE (5:09 PM): We have added Quinn Emanuel’s official response to the newest controversy at the end of this post. It’s a doozy.

In the meantime, one news outlet is heralding the case as the trial of the century, while another says the outcome is irrelevant anyway. So let’s take a step back and think about what it all means…

Let’s start with the fun stuff. What do you have for us, Conan? (Gavel bang: WSJ Law Blog.)

I think my favorite part is the Macrowave Oven. I’m also not sure if the company has disclosed that they have a new CEO: Stefan Jobes. Maybe they should get on that, lulz.

In more substantive matters, a Yahoo! Finance story this morning trumpeted the headline, “Apple vs. Samsung: Is It the Trial of the Century?” The article never really deals with that question, but the write-up (and accompanying video piece) raises some other big picture issues worth mentioning.

First off, both sides are spending so much money on this. On Thursday, as the reporter in the video mentions, there were probably 20 or 30 attorneys in the courtroom. Some of them were seated behind the bar, just in front of the gaggle of media. And the expert witnesses Apple has brought in so far have been costing as much as $80,000 apiece. Tack on legal fees, and you have to wonder: is the case worth it for either side? Or should they just, like, buy a small country in the Caribbean?

I think the answer is yes, the case is worth it, at least for Apple. Apple wants $2.5 billion. Not too shabby. Best case scenario for Apple, the company could potentially eliminate one of their major competitors from the smartphone market.

Obviously, to get there, Apple has to make it all the way to a jury verdict and win. And at this point, I don’t think most commentators are ready to call it for either side. We haven’t even seen any of Samsung’s expert witnesses, and Apple still has quite a bit of time on the shot clock.

But, does it even matter who wins? Or could Apple essentially be chalking up these expenses to advertising?

For most of this month, media outlets across the United States (and the world) have been broadcasting various permutations of “Apple says Samsung stole its designs.” How long before some consumers start to believe it, simply from the constant repetition? And how much time, even after this is all finished, before Google results stop showing news about case?

Time’s Techland blog goes a step further and argues that simply by suing, Apple has already achieved what it wanted Samsung to do. They quote another writer, who called the Galaxy S III “the first smartphone designed entirely by lawyers,” because of all the steps specifically taken to avoid any kind of infringement. Apparently that mindset has carried into other Samsung products:

Looking at Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, I get the feeling that the same strategy is in play. While Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab 10.1 looked a lot like Apple’s iPad, the Note 10.1?s design seems tailored to avoid resemblance. In landscape mode, the bezel thins out around the sides so it’s not evenly sized all the way around. Outside the bezel, there’s a silver frame that runs around the front of the tablet, also unevenly sized, with speakers that throw off the device’s symmetry. Anyone with a clue wouldn’t mistake the Galaxy Note 10.1 for an iPad.

If Apple hadn’t sued Samsung over its designs, do you think today’s Galaxy phones and tablets would bear so little resemblance to the iPhone and iPad? I think not.

Maybe if Samsung prevails in this lawsuit, it’ll go back to designs that more closely resemble Apple products, but I doubt that as well. Win or lose, Samsung’s reputation is getting dinged in this trial. Its earlier products do look a lot like Apple’s even if they haven’t violated patent law, and that’s what the public sees as this case plays out.

On the next page, see the latest controversy brewing around another famous Quinn Emanuel attorney, who also happens to be a well-known Fox News commentator. Why might she be in hot water after appearing in front of a magistrate judge yesterday?

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