Why the Apple Patent Infringement Trial Doesn't Matter

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks are flat this morning, with the S&P 500 and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) both within a point of breakeven. One issue that may be weighing on investor sentiment is a report from one of China's top investment banks that the government will cut its economic growth target to 7% for next year, down from 7.5% in recent years.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and archrival Samsung are in a California court today as a new jury is selected in a follow-up to Apple's major patent-infringement legal victory of August 2012. At stake is $450 million -- or nearly half of the original $1.05 billion award -- that was "vacated" by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh due to mistakes by the first jury.

The issue of patent infringement itself is not in dispute -- the court has already ruled that Samsung did indeed copy Apple's iPhone and iPad -- only the correct amount of damages remains to be determined. The trial will last 10 days, with the jury expected to issue its verdict around Nov. 22, at which point Samsung would have to pay a bond.

That all sounds speedy enough, but it still leaves Koh time to give her decision before next March -- not to mention the fact that appeals could drag on for several years (and Samsung is expected to appeal). Who knows what the smartphone market will look like by then? The speed of the market's transformation may well have reduced the final ruling to a footnote in the history of the "mobile wars."

Here's just one example of the frenetic pace of competition in this area: Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) is today unveiling a set of functionality that adds music to the capabilities of Google Glass, its first venture into wearable devices (according to a Wall Street Journal report last month, it won't be the last -- the company is reportedly planning to introduce a smart watch within the next few months).

"Listen to" will be a standard voice command, and users will be able to scan through saved playlists and link to their Google Play account. Earbud headphones designed specifically for Glass that will enable to users to listen to music in high-quality sound will be available at the end of the month. Will Google Glass ultimately gain acceptance with consumers? There is no way to predict that at this stage. What's more interesting is the resources companies like Google are willing to allocate to experimenting in the area of devices, which are, and will continue to be, enormously lucrative.

While the dollar amounts at stake in the Apple-Samsung trial may seem significant at first glance, they really aren't, particularly once you relate them to the expected duration of the trial and appeals process. The "mobile wars" won't be won in a courtroom, but rather in the marketplace.

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  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2013, at 10:55 AM, bugnuts wrote:

    Considering most people don't want to wear glasses, I believe Glass will be a niche product. They're already being banned behind the wheel and in venues like some bars and movie theaters.

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