It would be crazy to attempt to dress up Friday's jury verdict in Apple v. Samsung as anything other than a staggering defeat for Samsung, and by implication for Google's Android OS, too.
Velvin Hogan, the retired engineer and inventor who was elected foreman of the jury, described the verdict as a clear message to intellectual property violators: "They took the risk and it caught up with them."
We've had the weekend to digest the fact that it took the jury just a few hours to complete a complicated verdict form, deciding every question unanimously in favor of Apple.
Samsung will not be greatly damaged by the $1 billion damages award, big though it is. But its stock has already taken a severe blow.
Granted that victory could hardly be more complete -- or sweeter -- for Apple, what does this mean for the future of the Android market and for mobile innovation in general?
Of course, legal proceedings are far from over. Samsung has announced that it will appeal the verdict; and other, similar trials have delivered different results. Nevertheless, it can hardly be business as usual for Android phone manufacturers, who have long been skating the thin ice of IP law by creating devices that resemble the iPhone as much as possible.
Here are some plausible scenarios:
- The verdict relates to superficial design issues and has no impact on the core Android OS, which will continue to dominate the smartphone market, including for Samsung.
- Apple is now in a position to target Google, in an attempt to eradicate Android competition altogether.
- Samsung's competitors, like Nokia, will press for advantage, possibly through wider adoption of Windows Phone 8. It's good news for RIM, too.
- Innovation will be stifled, with designers compelled to avoid the use of seemingly obvious features of existing products ("pinch-zoom," for example).
It's easy to set up these possibilities, and just as easy to knock them down again.
Apple itself seems to acknowledge the possibility of designing Android-based smartphones that don't infringe its patents -- for example, Nokia's Lumia. With four times the iPhone's global market share, Android phones aren't going to vanish overnight. There's enormous market-driven demand for devices that work like iPhones but are cheaper, a demand that Samsung dramatically satisfied in the short-term.
If anything, smart innovators should be energized by this verdict. Their mission: Beat the iPhone, without taking advantage of those design shortcuts that Apple convinced the jury Samsung had improperly exploited.
In some ways, the story of the smartphone may just have begun.
What do you think? Tell us on the board below, and take our latest poll on this case.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution