While Apple was the clear $1 billion winner in its patent infringement case against Samsung , its victory may be short-lived. Richard Woodbridge, a patent attorney and partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, said that both the fast-paced cycle of innovation, as well as the antitrust implications of the decision, may ultimately cause more problems for Apple than Samsung.
“I think Apple’s trying to shoot a cannon across the bow of Google,” he said, but cautioned that this strategy could backfire.
“In some respects, I wonder if this isn’t a sort of rear-guard action on the part of Apple,” Woodbridge said. “You often see this kind of behavior with a company that has matured and is trying to defend its turf.”
Woodbridge says he sees a pattern emerging that started back when flip phones were on their way out. “Think of how popular the Motorola RAZR was–that had a two-year life. Then Palm was exciting, and that had a two-year life, then Nokia was exciting, then RIM was exciting, and now of course, Apple with its iPhones are exciting,” Woodbridge observed. Now it’s Apple’s turn.
“Clearly Samsung, with the slimmer profile, bigger screen, that’s coming along too,” Woodbridge said. “You have basically have five or six companies that have been at the top of the heap for about two years, and then you have this creative destruction where one starts eating the other’s lunch with better, improved products.”
And, now that Apple is seeking to ban eight Samsung phones, it could bring Apple to the attention of government regulators. “It puts a target on their back vis a vis antitrust,” Woodbridge said. “Maybe not in the U.S., but potentially in Europe, where the antitrust movement is more aggressive than the United States. Look at the issues Microsoft is going through. When you get to be that big and that powerful and start throwing your weight around, you risk having regulators take a careful look at you.”
Since the jury found that Samsung willfully infringed on Apple’s patents, the company is liable for triple damages–$3 billion, as opposed to $1 billion. But the issue isn’t so much the monetary reward as it is the banning of Samsung’s products. “If Apple were successful in squashing all Samsung competition, it has some major antitrust implications,” Woodbridge said. “However, I can’t believe the court would be that draconian.”
“The best of all worlds would be Samsung paying Apple some sort of licensing fee,” Woodbridge said. “I don’t imagine the judge would mandate it, but I could see her encouraging them to come to that result.”
“We know who won,” Woodbridge said, “but we don’t know what the prize is.”