Just Verdict or Something Fishy?

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August 26, 2012 by McDowski

By now, pretty much everyone who has any remote interest in the Apple v Samsung case (and really, anyone with access to newspapers and the Interwebnet) knows that the jury found Samsung guilty of almost everything. In short, Samsung is a greedy and non-innovative giant slug that tried to make money by ripping off America’s corporate darling. And they will pay for it.

What’s interesting, though, is that the verdict was reached in a shockingly short time. Pretty much all journalists – and even legal experts, from what I had seen on the webnet – were expecting the jury to take their sweet time. After all, this was a pretty damn complex case, with lots of confusing technical and legal jargon concerning source codes and software patents, and the jury in the end had to answer a 700-question form (not a typo) regarding various aspects of the lawsuit, from the technologically titillating to the mindless minutiae. And the jury did it in less than three days.

Now that’s some accomplishment! No delays, no back-and-forth among the jurors, no confusion about the questions that would require assistance from the court. Just three days and a unanimous verdict. I can’t help but wonder if they really approached the suit the right way. Because I must say, it sounds a bit like the jury sort of had its mind made up prior to deliberation.

Think about it – a giant American success story, a homegrown company that is viewed as one of the most innovative in the world, against a foreign corporation that is accused of stealing their idea… Is it really so inconceivable that there was some form of misguided patriotism at play here?

“Those damn foreigners,” they might have thought. “Coming in and stealing American jobs. And now they’re stealing our ideas, too!”
“Well, we don’t know that yet, John,” protests a reasonable fellow juror. “Maybe they didn’t.”
“Aw, c’mon! These guys are always stealing shit from us! Like those damn fake Apple Stores in China.”
“Samsung is Korean…”
“Korean, Chinese. They’re all bloody Asian, aren’t they?”
“Also, Obama’s Muslim.”

I jest, of course. I have no reason to think that the jurors are racist. But that does not mean that there wasn’t some sense of “Us vs. Them” among the jurors. The smoking gun, if it can be called that, is the aforementioned deliberating time. Three days, when everyone was expect them to take at least a week, and maybe two? And there might be other issues, too.

One of the major points of contention was the validity of Apple patents. Reading various tech sites and forums, it seems to me that a lot of people thought that some of Apple’s patents were simply ridiculous. “Apple owns ‘rectangle with rounded corners’!” was a common sarcastic comment I saw. While that is an oversimplification, it points to what many people feel is the state of patent law. Many people feel that the patent system needs a significant overhaul, and more limitations placed on broad sweeping patents. And guess what? The jury foreman is himself a patent holder. Not a crime, of course, but mayhaps suggesting that he was predisposed to supporting broad patents?

Who knows? But the super-quick turnaround time for the verdict does seem a little strange.


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