How Apple v. Samsung II is Only the Next Stage in Apple’s “Holy War with Google”
Two weeks ago, Apple and Samsung began round two of their long running patent battle when the parties started presenting arguments in yet another lawsuit. This court case is a rematch from Apple’s 2012 victory over Samsung, where Apple won nearly $1 billion in damages. While a billion dollars sounds like a major victory, the sum represents a drop in the bucket for both Apple and Samsung. This newest lawsuit ups the ante with Apple seeking $2.191 billion from Samsung for alleged infringement of four different software patents, including Apple’s “slide-to-unlock” feature. Samsung has countersued for $7 million dollars over Apple’s alleged infringement of two of its own patents. Unlike Apple’s previous case, this lawsuit focuses slowly on Samsung’s software, not the physical design of its phones. By aiming at Samsung’s software, Apple has tipped its hand and shown its true target: Google.
Even with $2 billion on the line, Apple is not simply after money or even Samsung. Apple’s primary concern is Google and its entire Android phone line. A number of emails uncovered during the trial’s discovery process shows that Apple is completely focused on defeating Google in the smartphone market. In an email from October 2010, the late Steve Jobs outlined his plans for a meeting at an annual retreat, which included talking points on Apple’s “Holy War with Google” with a focus on “all the ways we will compete with them.” Steve Jobs additionally told his biographer Walter Isaacson that, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this.”
While Steve Jobs died in 2011, his company has continued to push this fight and has used the courts as one way to blunt Google’s continued success in the smartphone market. Because Samsung’s smartphones exclusively use Google’s Android operating system, an attack on Samsung’s software is an attack on Google. Although unlikely to succeed, one of Apple’s goals is to receive an injunction against Samsung, which would prevent it from selling phones that carry patent infringing software. Apple previously pushed for an injunction against Samsung in its 2012 lawsuit, but had its request rejected by Judge Lucy Koh: the same judge presiding over the current lawsuit. While the injunction request will likely fail once again, it shows that Apple is not only looking for damages, but also wants to fundamentally hurt Samsung and the Google smartphone line.
The parties’ inability to settle is further proof of Apple’s grander aspirations. As Brian Chen of the New York Times points out, reaching a settlement is very difficult because of the two sides vastly different business models. Apple is not interested in simply taking a check because it prefers to develops exclusive software for its hardware, while preventing competitors from having any right to use it. Conversely, while Samsung would gladly pay Apple to go away, it is simply unwilling to remove features from some of its best-selling smartphones to settle this case. Ultimately, while this case will end in the coming weeks (albeit with lawyers ready to file appeals), the war between Apple and Google will rage on, likely beyond these proxy battles with Samsung.