Apple’s triumph over Samsung is intoxicating

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Apple awarded nearly $1 billion in huge court win, but judge won’t ban Samsung phones
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Apple awarded nearly $1 billion in huge court win, but judge won’t ban Samsung phones

Apple’s (AAPL) triumph over Samsung (005930) seems at a first glance intoxicating. Screen bounce-back, pinch and zoom — all in all, seven of Apple’s key claims against Samsung were validated across a broad range of phones. It is cold comfort indeed that Samsung’s weakly selling tablet escaped the worst censure.

Here are Samsung Galaxy S III, LG Optimus Elite and HTC One X. Quickly — which is which?

That is a question another set of jurors may start pondering sooner rather than later. Samsung is the big fish, already towering over Apple when it comes to quarterly smartphone shipment volumes. But there is no reason why Apple would not start gunning for smaller vendors – precisely because they are so much more vulnerable. Armed with a powerful precedent, Apple’s case against the next Asian vendors is going to be a lot stronger than it was against Samsung.

HTC and LG are in no position to wage war against Apple. Their smartphone market shares have collapsed over the past two years, HTC diving from 10% to 2.5%. Both companies are facing an exceptionally difficult Christmas period after their summer product roll-outs fizzled. If Apple now goes after them after demonstrating this much courthouse power, all bets are off. The process of redesigning handsets to avoid infringement is going to be laborious and painful for all of the Asian Android vendors.

The weakness of HTC and LG should actually be a major motivating factor for Apple in pursuing these companies as mercilessly as possible. Apple might now have a shot at knocking a one or two rivals out of the smartphone market for good – not just slap them down for a while. The time to capitalize on Friday’s shock verdict is now.

It just might be that Nokia’s decision to go with a completely new UI look and feel for its Lumia range saved it from a lot of grief. Nokia cut a deal with Apple long ahead of the Samsung trial – and it now seems that the result of this trial could have put Nokia into a serious disadvantage had the company chosen to drag the process on. It just might be that the jury may have handed Nokia a substantial strategic smartphone advantage. We’ll see how the Android camp regroups after today’s setback. It is safe to say that the trial result was far harsher on Samsung than almost anyone anticipated.

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