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Legal victory could help Apple settle an old score

Column Verdict against Samsung soothes the ghost of Windows past
Tue Aug 28 2012, 09:59
V3 reporter Shaun Nichols

LATE LAST FRIDAY Apple won a victory in a lawsuit some think will have a lasting effect on the impact of intellectual property in the IT and consumer electronics markets.

A US District Court jury found that Samsung had infringed a number of Apple hardware and software design patents. The figure for total damages the jury awarded to the Iphone maker topped $1bn.

Though the award was less than half of what had been originally requested, the sum is still significant on a number of levels. Apple has emerged victorious in the first phase of what many consider to be the technology world's most important patent decision since SCO tried to hijack Linux.

The money itself will hardly be significant to Apple. The Iphone alone brings revenues far higher than that every quarter. The message it sends, both to Apple and the rest of the industry, however, is significant.

While Apple has yet to release any comment on the verdict, a leaked memo suggests that Tim Cook sees the decision as a vindication for Apple's culture and philosophy.

"For us this lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money. It's about values," Cook was quoted as saying.

"We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth."

While the sentiment will no doubt be viewed as more smug arrogance from Apple, Cook's words also offer a view into how Apple as a company sees the rest of the industry and how history has shaped the company.

Specifically, how Microsoft Windows has jaded Apple's view of the market.

In 1994, Apple filed what it thought would be a landmark lawsuit against Microsoft. The company alleged that the Windows platform was an unabashed copy of Apple's Macintosh operating system and that Microsoft had made its name from copying Apple's hard work.

Apple eventually lost the suit, thanks in part to a counter-claim from Xerox alleging that Apple stole key concepts for the MacOS from projects developed in its PARC research facility. Microsoft proceeded to turn Windows into the de facto backbone for most of the world's personal computers, while the Macintosh platform was pushed into a downward spiral which nearly killed the Apple brand.

The case was never forgotten, neither by Apple nor Steve Jobs. Even after the case was decided the company made a habit of pointing out areas in which Windows was copying the MacOS, and when Jobs returned, the company maintained a mixture of pride, bitterness and paranoia that can only come from the belief that the rest of the world was ripping off your original work.


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