Even for those readers who are not aware of the latest litigation between Apple and Samsung, it will come as no surprise that Apple is (once again!) attempting to sue Samsung over the supposed similarity between the iPad and the Galaxy Tab.
There are a number of things we could write about in relation to this action. Firstly, as we’ve already written about, the never-ending filing and counter-filing of such suits every time a new product is released is good for little other than the bank balances of lawyers. Secondly, it runs counter to common (and legal) sense that very similar, if not identical, proceedings are brought in multiple jurisdictions and different decisions may be reached in each one. In these cases involving global entities, there is a real temptation to argue for an International Civil Court, which, despite initial difficulties, would be beneficial in the long run. Thirdly, there is a strong argument that intellectual property law in the US, UK and Europe could benefit from some serious reform.
However, one of the most interesting aspects of the case came after the judgement itself. Following the judge’s decision that Samsung’s tablet is “not as cool” as the iPad, and thus does not infringe Apple’s patents, he went on to grant Samsung’s request that Apple pay for adverts in a number of national newspapers and magazines stating that Samsung’s product does not copy the iPad. While this is not the first time such an order has been made, it is a relatively rare occurrence and its inclusion in the order sparked a number of headlines.
There are several points to consider in relation to this. First of all, as considered in the judgement itself, there is the potential for an odd situation given that this was only a High Court decision and Apple have stated that they intend to appeal. This means that Apple may have to run adverts stating that the Galaxy Tab is not similar to the iPad, only to win their case at the Court of Appeal several months down the line. Perhaps the Court of Appeal could then order Samsung to take out adverts noting that they did infringe Apple’s patents? It would be one way to help prop up the slowly dying print industry.
Secondly, there is an argument that having to pay for such adverts could act as a strong deterrent against companies such as Apple bringing lawsuits so frequently. This is not to say that intellectual property rights should not be strongly protected, but it is clear that the sheer volume of lawsuits mean that the current system needs reform. While the legal costs of such actions might dissuade smaller companies, the most profitable company in the world is not going to struggle to pay its legal bills. What might affect its behaviour, however, is damage to its reputation — especially its status as “cool”. Apple prides itself on its image, and a large part of the success of its products relies on the zeitgeist deeming them the cool products to own. It seems unlikely that Apple would be able to maintain such an image if it is constantly required to run adverts about other companies’ products.
Having said that, perhaps the head of marketing at Apple is missing a trick here. If Apple is required to run adverts saying that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab is nothing like the iPad, perhaps they should follow it up with adverts noting exactly how the iPad is different, focusing on its better attributes such as the screen resolution (and the fact that it is cooler!).
Finally, the idea that a court can order a company to pay for adverts raises some interesting suggestions for further development. One area that such adverts could be utilised to great effect is defamation. While publications are often required to print a retraction and apology when they are found to have defamed someone, these retractions are usually buried deep inside the paper with no attention drawn to them. This is in stark contrast to the kind of headlines and photos that usually accompany “sensational scoops”, and does little to make it clear to the readers that the publication was wrong to make the accusations that it did. How many newspapers would be more hesitant to run scurrilous exposés if they knew the cost of publishing a false story would be a front-page headline saying “We were wrong and apologize to Mr Cruise” (for example)?
And that’s not mentioning all the other people that could do with apologizing…Londoners are waiting Mitt!
- Apple ordered to run adverts stating Samsung did not copy iPad (guardian.co.uk)
- UK Judge says Galaxy Tab ‘not as cool’ as iPad, awards Samsung lawsuit win (engadget.com)