Ensuring true competition
A California jury's $1.05 billion verdict against Samsung Corp. for stealing gadget technology from Apple doesn't mean much, in terms of cash for the Korean company, which is the world's largest cellphone manufacturer.
Samsung's stock on a Seoul exchange declined by 7 percent the day after the verdict - a change in market value worth $12 billion. Clearly, the verdict itself is small change.
For consumers, the verdict could be revolutionary because Apple's aggressive pursuit of patent protection warned all copycat manufacturers - the "fast followers" who adopt as their own the new designs by true innovators - that there no longer is a free ride.
Samsung's spokesman lamented that consumers would be denied choice because of the verdict, but it's more likely that consumers will benefit in the long term.
Internationally protected technology patents mean that companies will have to unleash their engineering talent to devise their own operating systems and software, rather than reverse-engineering the inventions of others. That, in turn, means true innovation and choice rather than a few different versions of the same basic technology in slightly different packages.
Samsung said it will appeal the verdict, but jurors carefully parsed Apple's claims and narrowed its award to the specific areas of smartphone technology that clearly had been copied by Samsung. The federal judge in the case now has the option of increasing the award by as much as 300 percent, and must decide whether to ban the sale in the United States of eight Samsung products that use the pilfered technology.
By forcing Samsung and, by extension, other copycats to devise their own designs, the jury has ensured true competition in the electronic device market, which will benefit consumers for generations.