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Billion-dollar court win could help to settle an old score for Apple

27 Aug 2012
V3 reporter Shaun Nichols

On 24 August, Apple came out victorious in a case many believe will have a lasting impact on the IT and consumer electronics spaces.

A US District Court jury found that Samsung had infringed on a number of Apple hardware and software design patents. The total damages to be awarded to the iPhone maker will top $1bn.

Though the award was less than half of what had been originally requested, the sum is still significant on a number of levels. Apple has emerged victorious in the first phase of what many consider to be the technology world's most important patent decision since SCO laid claim to the Linux platform.

The money itself will hardly be significant to Apple. The iPhone alone brings revenues far higher than that every quarter. The message it sends, both to Apple and the rest of the industry, however, is significant.

While Apple has yet to release any official comment on the verdict, a leaked memo suggests that Tim Cook sees the decision as a vindication for Apple's culture and philosophy.

"For us this lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money. It’s about values," Cook was quoted as saying.

"We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth."

While the sentiment will no doubt be viewed in some quarters as more smug arrogance from Apple, Cook's words also offer a view into how Apple as a company sees the rest of the industry and how history has shaped the company.

Specifically, it underlines how Microsoft Windows has jaded Apple's view of the market.

In 1994, Apple filed what it thought would be a landmark suit against Microsoft. The company alleged that the Windows platform was an unabashed copy of Apple's Macintosh operating system and that Microsoft had made its name from copying Apple's hard work.

Apple eventually lost the suit, thanks in part to a counter-claim from Xerox alleging that Apple stole key concepts for the MacOS from projects developed in its PARC research facility. Microsoft proceeded to turn Windows into the de facto backbone for most of the world's personal computers, while the Macintosh platform was pushed into a downward spiral which nearly killed the Apple brand.

The case was never forgotten, neither by Apple nor Steve Jobs. Even after the case was decided the company made a habit of pointing out areas in which Windows was copying the MacOS, and when Jobs returned, the company maintained a mixture of pride, bitterness and paranoia that can only come from the belief that the rest of the world was ripping off your original work.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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