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A Costly Victory for Apple vs. Samsung

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The point is made. Is it time to let go?

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Apple (AAPL) has always said it doesn't want to sell the most devices -- it wants to sell the best devices and (although this remains unsaid) the most expensive devices.
 
By that measure, one could argue that Apple is the winner in the latest round of its seemingly endless patent fight against Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF). That is, it didn't do a thing to dent Samsung's sales, or sales of any other device using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system.
 
But by any other measure -- like money, market share, and sales -- Samsung won, and Google, supplier of the Android operating system that it uses, won even more in the decision reached last week by a jury in a San Jose, California, court.
 
Android runs on almost 80% of smartphones worldwide, with the Samsung brand name appearing on almost 40% of them. Apple's share had dropped to about 15.5% by the end of 2014 from 22% a year before, according to figures from Strategy Analytics.
 
The court in San Jose actually found in Apple's favor in three of its four allegations against Samsung. The jury agreed that Samsung had copied a patented feature that allows users to make a phone call or create an email just by tapping on the text in an email. Nearly all of the monetary damages were awarded for that violation.
 
It also ruled that Samsung swiped Apple's autocomplete function. And the judge in the case had ruled earlier that Samsung copied Apple's patented slide-to-unlock feature.

So Apple won, in headline-speak.
 
But the jury set the damages at a relatively paltry $119.6 million, a fraction of the $2.2 billion Apple said it was owed. On Monday, the jury declined to increase the total damages awarded to reflect the judge's decision on the slide-to-unlock violation. Adding insult to injury, the jury agreed with Samsung that Apple had violated one of its patents. So Samsung gets to subtract its $158,000 penalty award from the final total.
 
Most importantly, Apple didn't succeed in persuading the court to ban Samsung from selling the devices-infringed patents and all-in the US.
 
Remember, this follows a 2012 patent victory against Samsung in which it was awarded $1.1 billion. That judgment was seen as a total victory for Apple. The problem is, not a penny has changed hands yet (the 2012 case is still being appealed), and the current case inevitably will be, too.
 
The question is: Why is Apple spending so much time, money, and energy fighting Samsung and, by extension, Google?
 
In fact, the jury foreman told CNET.com that the jurors felt Apple might be attacking the wrong company. "I guess if you really feel that Google is something that's the cause behind this, as I think everybody observed, then don't beat around the bush," he said. 
 
All but one of the features cited in the case, the slide-to-unlock function, would seem as likely to have come out of Google's workshop as Samsung's. Samsung made that argument in court and even claimed that Google had created the essential design features used in Android before the first Apple iPhone was released in 2007.
 
But Apple can't sue Google, apparently because Google doesn't sell its Android software. It gives it away to manufacturers.
 
Maybe it just makes Apple crazy that Samsung is getting away with other copycat moves that are more a fashion statement than a functional innovation. Honestly, a gold-colored case and a fingerprint scan? Where does Samsung get these ideas?
 
In its statement after Friday's ruling, Apple said, "Today's ruling reinforces what courts around the world have already found: that Samsung willfully stole our ideas and copied our products."
 
Maybe Apple proved its point, but this is one costly nonvictory.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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