This is the first in a series of articles ahead of the Dec. 6 hearing on the Samsung-Apple patent legal battle to be presided over by U.S. Federal Judge Lucy Koh. ― ED.
By Kim Yoo-chul
Christopher J. Sprigman
Apple started as a ferocious copycat but now it is an industrial leader, it calls everyone else imitators in order to maintain its position, according to a U.S. patent expert.
''Apple is now blasting Samsung as a copycat. But from its beginning, Apple was an active copier itself,'' said Christopher Jon Sprigman, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. The interview was conducted by email.
''In a 1994 interview, the late Apple founder invoked Picasso's alleged dictum that 'good artists copy, great artists steal,'" Sprigman said, also quoting the late Steve Jobs who said, "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."
U.S. Federal Judge Lucy Koh will rule on a jury verdict ordering Samsung to pay $1.05 billion in damages for violating Apple patents in a Dec. 6 hearing.
The judge may alter the sum or, as Samsung hopes, order a new trial over jury foreman Velvin Hogan's alleged misconduct.
Sprigman continued: ''On a visit in 1979 to the Xerox research center in Palo Alto, California, the late Jobs became fascinated with a Xerox prototype computer that used a mouse and screen icons. Jobs took ideas he'd seen at Xerox, refined them and made them central features of the Macintosh. The freedom to copy built Apple and gave us the great products we enjoy today.''
On a question of a terminal disclaimer recently filed by Apple Sprigman said, "Also, Apple is trying to moot Samsung's motion to the court to have the second patent declared invalid. But despite what Apple has done, I don't think the motion should be mooted. It's likely that some part of the jury's damage award was attributable to the second of the two identical design patents.''
''Samsung had asked that the jury specify in its verdict what portion of damages should be assigned to each patent, but the court refused the request. Which means that there is now at least a possibility that the damages calculation might need to be thrown out and done over with a new jury,'' the professor continued.
Sprigman previously served as an appellate counsel in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), where he worked on Microsoft-related disputes.
The professor's main focus is on how legal rules affect innovation and the deployment of new technologies.
Apple has recently agreed to limit the term of one of the patents involved in the $1.05 billion August jury verdict against Samsung in California.
According to the agreement, Apple has limited the term of patent D'677 _ a patent that 12 different Samsung phones were found to infringe on.
Sprigman said Apple wants to put a so-called ''patent tax'' on Google's Android operating system. ''The patent disputes between Samsung and Apple are part of a broader struggle between Apple and Google for dominance.''
The professor's view is in line with many other patent experts who say consumers would have to pay more for tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. Simply put, this is a big Apple tax.
Samsung is asking for a new trial, still insisting that Apple is hurting innovation by other companies, while the iPhone maker still wants Koh to order a complete sales ban on some Samsung products as the Cupertino-based firm believes its biggest parts client willfully infringed on some of its patents.
''Apple is fighting Samsung because the Android-based phones sold by Samsung and others such as Taiwan's HTC are beating Apple's iPhone in the marketplace. Almost 75 percent of smartphones sold globally are now Android-base,'' the co-author of ''The Knockoff Economy; How Imitation sparks Innovation'' answered.
''Patent lawsuits are a competitive tool ― a way to win in court instead of in the marketplace,'' the professor said.