If designers run the show at Apple
Apple's top patent expert, Chip Lutton, is leaving the company after a decade-long stint. His heir is BJ Watrous, formerly a top lawyer in the Hewlett-Packard organization, but that's kind of beside the point. Replacing a leading legal mind in the midst of several high-stakes intellectual property lawsuits is hardly ideal, no matter how talented the replacement may be.
Slinging darts at Sammy
On that note, the complicated cross-suing action against Samsung could soon get even tougher, as Samsung has moved to replace some or all of Apple's third-party legal staff for the case. According to Samsung, there's a conflict of interest as five lawyers on Apple's side previously represented Samsung in a different patent-related lawsuit. The confidential information those folks saw earlier might taint them for Apple's purposes.
The Samsung drama is complicated by the fact that the Korean company manufactures several important parts of Apple's popular iPod, iPhone, and iPad product lines. Unless the combatants kiss and make up, Apple might even need Intel
As you can see, there are complications involved in cutting Samsung loose entirely.
Moreover, a federal judge has just denied Apple's request for a speedier trial. "Apple has not established substantial harm or prejudice justifying a shortened briefing and hearing schedule for its Motion to Expedite," says the court order. Hence, Samsung will be able to keep importing and selling its Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab gadgets for a while despite Apple's cries of copycat products and design infringements.
On that note, Taiwanese smartphone builder HTC is thumbing its nose at Apple's attempts to stop the flow of HTC Androids. "HTC is disappointed at Apple's constant attempts at litigations instead of competing fairly in the market," says HTC's official response to yet another legal action from Apple. Translation: Shouldn't you guys be innovating rather than litigating?
The damage done
How will the loss of one and perhaps several more top litigators affect Apple's many legal actions? I'm no lawyer, but I'd expect defections and court setbacks to at least delay everything by quite a while, and perhaps render the idea of blocking current gadget imports moot; there'd be new generations of smartphones and tablets on the market before anything gets settled.
In that case, the whole exercise seems like a pointless distraction from the real business at hand, particularly with revered leader and famed micromanager Steve Jobs largely out of commission.
By contrast, Google
What is Apple doing wrong?
I'm not saying Apple should open its source code or anything, but the courtroom seems like the wrong venue for the smartphone wars. The market simply moves too quickly for the slow gears of the legal system to make a difference, other than imposing damages long after the alleged crimes were committed.
On top of that, I remain unconvinced that many of the patents and trademarks at issue should have been granted in the first place. For example, Apple wants exclusive rights to the App Store name in suits filed against Amazon.com and others.
That's kind of like Johnson & Johnson trademarking the term "adhesive bandages" rather than the Band-Aid name that it actually owns. If Apple had given its store a distinctive name akin to the truly trademarkable iTunes store (iApps, anyone?), I would understand fighting to protect it. But staking out exclusive rights to a common, descriptive term? Not so much.
Apple may win some of these lawsuits and settle others in its favor, but I doubt that any of it will result in significant changes to the mobile computing markets. To see how it all turns out, I'd suggest adding Apple to your watchlist so you can keep an eye on the stock without lifting a finger. OK, one finger for that first click. You might as well get that hardship out of the way right now.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google and has sold puts on Intel, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Google. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, Amazon, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Intel. They have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple as well as diagonal call positions in Johnson & Johnson and Intel. 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.