Jury to Apple and Samsung: Go play with your toys, boys

The jury in the latest Apple-Samsung patent trial might ultimately say that it followed the law scrupulously. But might a little humanity on the part of these supposed "tech novices" also have come into play?

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They're both very successful. WochitTech/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I spent Friday night at a bar chatting to a successful executive.

After the second glass of wine, he told me that he'd endured a serious illness a few years ago.

But still he works and wants to succeed some more.

At around the same time he'd mentioned words like "spleen" and "death," the Apple-Samsung verdict resonated around the world's most vital salon. Yes, of course I'm talking about Twitter.

The shock. The horror. The pain. The anguish.

This jury of supposedly wise and tech novice peers had decided that, even though Samsung had stolen a few of Apple's patents and Apple had stolen one of Samsung's, hardly any money should change hands between the two. (There is one more device to declare its view about on Monday.)

But Apple had demanded $2 billion. And this was a hometown jury.

I am sure that when they're talked into it, the jury members will say they followed the law.

On the other hand, these were also human beings. Humans can rationalize things very well. Rationalization often serves to mask the raw material of the emotional truth.

So who'd be surprised if their feelings weren't moved, except to indifference, by either side?

They listened to the charming, fancy lawyers. Samsung could even afford four of them just for their closing.

You never saw Alan Shore have three smarmy buddies closing for him on "Boston Legal." The usual on TV shows is one dreadfully smarmy Armani lawyer defending the obviously guilty man and one Men's Wearhouse-wearing prosecutor trying to enact justice -- despite unwashed head hair, protruding nasal hair and, who knows, a hare-lip for good measure.

These juried humans simply couldn't find the bad guy. All these lawyers were so silkily clever, but, I suspect, not one could get to the core: the sympathy factor.

Yes, the jury could see that Samsung had done a little thieving. But they'd surely seen enough of business to know that thieving goes on all the time.

They'd probably seen - or been in -- one company or another where subterfuge, trickery and manipulation went on between company and company as well as employee and employee.

Indeed, despite the proven thieving, you'd have to live on a truly libertarian island not to realize that Apple is arguably the most successful, most famous company on the planet.

It's as if Tom Cruise was whining because someone had stolen his girlfriend.

It's as if the New York Yankees were demanding money from all the Steinbrenners in America because they'd stolen the name Steinbrenner.

It was like Warren Buffett moaning that he wasn't paid enough.

This is a time when the whole of Silicon Valley is gorging itself on profits, parties, and preaching.

This is a time when the rich are getting impossibly richer and the poor (or just the not-rich) are looking up at the rich and muttering: "And you people don't even want to pay taxes."

Yet here were two immensely wealthy, successful, powerful companies acting like a couple of kids running to mommy Lucy Koh, pointing at each other and screeching: "It wasn't me! It was him that smashed the window!"

How could either company, no matter whether they thought that justice was somehow on their side, expect sympathy?

How could either imagine that this jury would somehow well up in tears at the pain and suffering endured, whip out the cold compress and whisper: "There, there"?

Even Judge Judy, I'm sorry, Judge Lucy Koh had hoped the two sides would settle before the first trial.

"Boys, boys. Can't you just make up and be friends?"

Oh, no. In business, all the metaphors are taken from sports and war. You have to go thermonuclear. You have to bury your opponent. You have to preen, pound your chest, and proclaim your ineffable greatness.

You have to declare that you never copy, even when your company's great founder prides himself on stealing.

You have to claim that you don't steal when you know that the potential cost of paying for that stealing will likely be far less than the profit you'll make from it.

This is all about being a man, a fighter, a crusher, a winner. This is all about creating products that the media describe as "iNsert product name-killer."

Might this jury have got to Friday night and thought: "It's the weekend. We've had enough of this."

So then it sent its message: "Will you two just cut it out, work it out, and be happy with what you've got?"

 

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