Will Apple go after Google following court win over Samsung?

27 Aug 2012

Pictured: The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs with one of his creations. He did promise he would go thermonuclear

After winning US$1.05bn in damages in its court battle against Samsung, Apple still believes Google’s Android smartphone OS infringes on iOS patents and Google may be next.

There’s a riveting passage in the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson where Jobs has an argument with then Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a Palo Alto coffee shop where Jobs voices his betrayal after spotting an early HTC Android handset.

“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Future Human

In its way Apple, despite the passing of Steve Jobs last year, has gone thermonuclear and has ongoing patent cases in most geographies, where it has obtained bans on rival Samsung’s Galaxy Tab for example.

Many companies like Samsung and HTC are countersuing Apple in the hope that perhaps victories in the right places may give them the higher ground, but if anything Samsung’s defeat by a jury in a California court on Friday will serve to excite a blood lust in Apple.

One by one it will pursue other manufacturers it feels has betrayed its IP. Then it willl go after Google.

‘Innovation over litigation’

Samsung it seems is already working to recover its decorum. A memo in the Samsung Tomorrow blog already issued to workers insists the company has strived to pursue a higher road of “innovation over litigation.”

It read: “We initially proposed to negotiate with Apple instead of going to court, as they had been one of our most important customers. However, Apple pressed on with a lawsuit, and we have had little choice but to counter-sue, so that we can protect our company. Certainly, we are very disappointed by the verdict at the US District Court for the Northern District of California (NDCA), and it is regrettable that the verdict has caused concern amongst our employees, as well as our loyal customers.

“However, the judge’s final ruling remains, along with a number of other procedures. We will continue to do our utmost until our arguments have been accepted. The NDCA verdict starkly contrasts decisions made by courts in a number of other countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Korea, which have previously ruled that we did not copy Apple’s designs. These courts also recognized our arguments concerning our standards patents.

“History has shown there has yet to be a company that has won the hearts and minds of consumers and achieved continuous growth, when its primary means to competition has been the outright abuse of patent law, not the pursuit of innovation. We trust that the consumers and the market will side with those who prioritize innovation over litigation, and we will prove this beyond doubt.”

Fighting talk alright. But I suspect that one by one Apple will pursue enough manufacturers who have built business models on Google’s Android OS and clutch enough legal victories that it will have ensured enough precedents are set so it will have a watertight case when it eventually takes on Google.

In its closing arguments during last week’s trial Apple pointed out that Steve Jobs changed the world with the iPhone in 2007. It was an interesting point when you consider smartphones (if they could have been called that then) were a pale imitation of what they are today. Even the notion of full screen touch devices was derisible up until that point. Apple were right, he did change everything.

The iPhone business is apparently worth more to Apple today than all of one-time rival Microsoft’s entire set of businesses.

The Samsung case is not going to be an end to the patent wars. This is only the beginning. Apple has gone thermonuclear.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years