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Patent Overreaction Follows Samsung Verdict

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The jury verdict that Samsung violated Apple patents isn't the end of the smartphone world as we know it.

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Samsung and others say they and other handset makers are simply building on and refining concepts that have been around for years, if not decades. That sounds pretty disingenuous. But smartphone design, at least at this stage, is like the fashion industry. For every real trendsetter there are a hundred copycats doing the same thing in another shade or fabric, a more luxurious version or a cheaper knockoff.

If so, it's harder to judge the real impact on Samsung sales. Does it help or hurt to be seen as an Apple copycat? Consumers might insist on buying "the real thing." Or, they might think it's pretty smart to buy a phone that's just as good but less expensive.

The impact on other device makers is tougher to call. Some suggest that they'll all go into a dither trying to find alternatives to "pinch and zoom" and other basic functions that won't get them sued. Or, they might just cough up the $5 per device to Apple for the rights and call it a day.

You'd think they'd be dancing in the streets at Microsoft headquarters, since the verdict came just as the company is about to launch a serious push for smartphone share with a revamped mobile version of its own operating system, Windows 8. And you'd be right. Bill Cox, marketing director for the company's phone division, tweeted on Monday: "Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now!"

Same goes for Nokia (NOK), which was up more than 5% yesterday, evidently because it has bet the farm on Windows 8 instead of Android.

More sober analysis suggests that the Apple court victory could be only "marginally beneficial" for Microsoft.

And that makes sense. It's not like the patent police are going to come to our doors and pry the Samsung phones out of our cold dead hands. Are they?
Position in MSFT.
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