The law of unintended consequences may have provided a short-term boost to Samsung as it absorbs the blow of a patent infringement judgment in a suit brought by Apple.
As a judge determines which of the devices in Samsung's substantial inventory of smartphones are too similar to Apple's iPhone and therefore must be banned in the United States, some consumers are scooping up top-selling Galaxy devices, whether for resale, personal use or maybe even as a perceived collector's item.
A survey of 16 top retailers by Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research found that sales of the Galaxy S III were higher than usual in some places, particularly AT&T stores, and that two Costco stores were sold out immediately following the verdict. According to published reports Chowdhry attributed the spike to concern that the S III would be banned as a result of the verdict.
That's a small comfort to Samsung as it faces a $1.05 billion judgment, not counting the loss of sales of banned phones and the money it will have to spend to develop more original products.
Apple has asked the judge to ban the Galaxy S 4G , Galaxy S II versions for AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint, and Boost Mobile's Galaxy Prevail, C Spire's Galaxy S Showcase and the Droid Charge for Verizon. A jury last month decided that Samsung violated patents for two display features: tap zooming and a "bounce back" feature.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh of California's Northern District Court will hear arguments on Dec. 6 over which devices should be banned.
A complete ban on Samsung phones that are similar to the iPhone is unlikely, especially since Samsung is appealing the verdict.
"If reports are correct indicating that the jury either misunderstood or even ignored the judge's instructions during their deliberations, it may be difficult or impossible for Apple to succeed in banning sales of Samsung products during the appeal process," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
It Ain't Over
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple, on the verge of becoming the most valuable company in the world as it prepares to launch a much-awaited iPhone successor, surely has the upper hand in its war against South Korea-based Samsung, which is the top seller of mobile phones in both the U.S. and global markets. But the battle is likely to heat up in coming years.
"Whether Apple and Samsung can learn to play nicely is hard to parse," King said. "Both companies are deeply ambitious, well-funded and blessed with talented legal departments. Plus, the resolution of the pair's various litigations worldwide have been anything but one-sided."
In the litigation wars, Samsung has prevailed against Apple in the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea and, most recently, Japan.
"Those wins are smaller than the case in California, but they will erode any claims of outright victory by Apple," King said. "Apple and Samsung are likely to continue wrangling until they realize they have more to lose than to gain. At the end of the day, the lawyers are the only real winners in these cases."