The Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit has been long, frustrating, and bizarre. When Apple first sued Samsung over one year ago, it appeared as if Apple was simply protecting its iPhone and iPad designs from companies who were beginning to mimic those devices. Samsung promptly countersued Apple, claiming it violated wireless technologies patents it holds.
Why exactly Apple decided to break the smartphone-market detente when it did is unknown. Apple, as a company, has never been doing better. Just this week, iPhone 5 rumors pushed Apple stock through the roof, making Apple the most valuable company in history. Throughout the past year and a half, however, it has become clear that Apple considers Samsung a serious threat to its position in the smartphone market.
Apple has sued Samsung (and other smartphone and tablet manufacturers) in countries throughout the world. During the trial in the U.S., Apple successfully blocked the sale of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 throughout the country. In the U.K. Apple was ordered to place ads stating that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is not an iPad rip-off. These types of absurdities have become the norm for patent trials.
Judge Lucy Koh, who has presided over the U.S. trial, knows that U.S. patent law is complicated and confusing at best. Last week she told the companies that they should give a settlement one more go before allowing a jury of people who aren't patent lawyers to make billion-dollar decisions for them. The disagreements between Apple and Samsung apparently run too deep, or each is confident enough that it will come out on top, though, because the companies seem perfectly willing to drag each other down and possibly have their own patents invalidated.
Ultimately, the losers in the lawsuit are customers, who would benefit more from competition outside the courtroom than in it. No matter what the jury decides this week, it will have repercussions for the entire smartphone and tablet industry. With current U.S. patent laws, however, this will be just one of many huge patent trials in the coming years.