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Apple Patent Win: Good for Apple, Bad for Samsung, Lousy for Consumers

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The jury in the Apple-Samsung patent infringement case concluded Friday that Samsung should pay Apple $1 billion in damages for ripping off features of Apple's iPhone.

This ruling is good for Apple (AAPL), bad for Samsung and other Apple competitors, and terrible for consumers, as Aaron and I discuss in the accompanying video.

The monetary damages here, though large, are almost irrelevant. Apple already has more than $100 billion of cash, and Samsung will barely miss $1 billion. And that's assuming the ruling stands up on appeal, which some legal experts think is unlikely.

More important is the precedent that this case sets, which is that gadget companies can successfully bring and win cases based on what might be described as "feature patents." One of the claims Apple made, for example, was that Samsung had infringed on an Apple patent that covered a "rectangular" phone. Given that all smartphones are rectangular, this patent and others like it could have a far-reaching impact.

Apple's success here may also cause Samsung and other competitors to think twice before incorporating basic features that people like about iPhones. And that could lead to competitive products being distinctly worse. Although Apple shareholders might like this, the precedent could hurt consumer choice.

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