Apple vs. Samsung: Both Companies Get Smacked Down in South Korean Court

By | Aug 29, 2012

It seems as though the Apple vs. Samsung battle simply won't go away. Now, the tech giants are taking their fight worldwide. A recent South Korean court fined both companies and issued sanctions on their products, though they may choose to appeal the ruling in a higher court. Still, the cases mimics those being fought in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia and could be miniature versions of the fines and sanctions to come. The U.S. trial is just heading into the jury phase; it's possible neither company will come out ahead.

You're Both Wrong

That appears to be the attitude of the South Korean justice system, which according to an article at CNN handed down a fine of $33,350 to Samsung for violating two intellectual property rights of Apple's iPad and iPhone. Apple, meanwhile, was given a $22,000 fine for allegedly infringing on Samsung's Wi-Fi technology. Both device makers had some of their products banned on the South Korean market; the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 for Apple, and the Galaxy SII, Nexus, Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 10.1 for Samsung. While they can appeal the decision in a higher court, the industry juggernauts may have their hands full with other trials currently running: The Apple vs. Samsung case in California has recently moved to the jury deliberation stage.

And this is where midsize IT need to worry. In South Korea--Samsung's home turf--a group of judges ruled on intellectual property rights and product infringement, leveling small fines for both companies. In the United States, Apple is suing Samsung for $2.5 billion and Samsung is counter-suing for $519 but the decision doesn't rest in the hands of seasoned legal or tech professionals. Instead, it's a group a nine strangers that must wade through reams and reams of technical jargon to decide what, if any, violations have taken place. In other words, it's up to non-IT consumers to decide on an extremely technical matter, all the while having it obfuscated further by legal jargon. If IT keeps getting settled this way, admins would be forgiven for stepping lightly.

A Jury's Nightmare

That's how a recent article at The Verge describes the jury decision process, and takes a look at just how the California nine are going to figure out if Samsung copied Apple and if so, how much copying took place. It's not as simple as saying "yay" or "nay" and then trying to hammer out a consensus; instead, the jurors have to answer 700 very specific and technical questions, informed in part by a 109-page set of instructions.

From some of the documentation pictured throughout The Verge article, it's clear that the jury has to contend not just with legal jargon like "a preponderance of the evidence" but also wade through technical terms in deciding if Samsung copied Apple's smartphone designs by "displaying a structured electronic document with a plurality of boxes of content." It's tough enough for even tech pros to wrap their heads around some of the high-level patent accusations. How is a jury going to fare, even with a massive instruction booklet?

Simply put, they'll do their best. But because they don't have the kind of IT background needed to understand many of the more tech-based claims, they'll have to focus on which company had the better lawyers and made the stronger case. And they could be motivated by a desire to get the trial over with rather than fight over another of the 700 questions they're being asked.

The Apple vs. Samsung decision will have serious ramifications for other legal challenges in the tech space, but it will also help determine if the courtroom will be the go-to response for companies when they feel like they've been wronged. In South Korea, both tech giants got a slap on the wrist and a few minor bans. In the United States and other parts of the world, the consequences could be much more serious. Midsize IT admins need to watch this case carefully and if the hammer comes down--on either side--need to be aware of the very real power of nine strangers backed by substantive legal authority.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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