Is Apple the One Here That Lacks Integrity?
Feb 28th 2013 6:00PM
Updated Feb 28th 2013 7:00PM
Late last year, shortly after U.S. courts sided with Apple in its global patent war against Samsung, British courts did the exact opposite and agreed with the South Korean conglomerate. As a result, Apple was ordered by the U.K. courts to post an apology on its website, clearing its rival of any wrongdoing and confirming that Samsung had not copied Apple.
It was a rather strange punishment to require a company trying to defend its intellectual property rights to say "I'm sorry" to its rival. A more appropriate response would have been to make Apple go sit in the corner for a time out, and perhaps take away its TV privileges for the week.
Aww, do I have to?
While complying, Apple still took the opportunity to poke fun at Samsung and make its case to the broader public. In the initial "apology" that the iPhone maker posted on its U.K. site, Apple quoted the judge in the suit as saying that Samsung's products are "not as cool" after relaying the necessary message that courts did not find patent infringement.
The courts were not amused.
Sir Robin Jacob, one of the judges presiding over the case, called it a "plain breach of the order" and was flabbergasted that Apple would pull such a stunt. Jacob is the judge that issued the first opinion for the appeals court that was overwhelmingly in Samsung's favor.
Apple received a mulligan and revised its statement and reposted the notice on its U.K. landing page again, except this time it used clever web coding to hide the link. Any visitor would initially only see Apple's normal product banners, and the entire site would automatically resize to whatever size the browser window was. Only when manually scrolling down would the apology link be revealed.
After some public backlash, Apple eventually removed the coding and displayed everything normally. While you could argue that Apple was behaving like a petulant child, it was merely acting the part, since it was handed a juvenile punishment to begin with.
The whole episode led Jacob to assert that Apple displayed a "lack of integrity" in the incident.
Now who lacks integrity?
In a strange turn of events, Jacob has now been hired by -- wait for it -- Samsung! The South Korean company is also involved in another complaint from Ericsson with the U.S. International Trade Commission, with Ericsson seeking an import ban. As part of that case that's unrelated to Apple, Samsung has tapped Jacob as a patent expert to help the conglomerate defend itself, as noted by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents.
So we have a judge that made a ruling overwhelmingly in favor of Samsung now being hired by Samsung as an expert just months later. How's that for integrity?
To be fair, Mueller acknowledges that Jacob is indeed a patent expert and could have a lot to contribute to the case. It's also very unlikely that there were any shady dealings between Samsung and Jacob while the Apple case was under way; the new arrangement is perfectly legal under existing U.K. law.
But Mueller compares it to the idea of Judge Lucy Koh, the U.S. District Judge overseeing the stateside case, going to work for Samsung in a similar capacity after Koh shot down Apple's request for a permanent injunction. This is hypothetical because Mueller says that U.S. rules would never permit it, but it flies in the U.K.
Calling it your job don't make it right, Boss.
It ain't over yet
Apple's global patent war with Samsung shows no signs of slowing down. Most recently, a Japanese court ruled in favor of Apple after Samsung alleged infringement of various wireless technologies. Sammy was looking for a ban on iDevices, but the Japanese courts shot down that idea. The decision in that case was the flip side of when Apple lost in its own bid to block Samsung devices last August over infringement. In both cases, Japanese courts sided with the defendant, but at least no one was forced to say they were sorry for trying.
Will this thermonuclear war ever see a cease-fire?
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The article Is Apple the One Here That Lacks Integrity? originally appeared on Fool.com.Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.