The seemingly endless legal battle over intellectual property
) took a strange turn yesterday when Samsung's lawyers accused
their opponents of using racially tinged language to appeal to the
jury's patriotism. The South Korean company's lawyers are seeking a
according to Bloomberg News
, Harold McElhinny, an Apple attorney, made closing remarks that
appealed to patriotism. He lamented that there weren't any more
American-made televisions like there used to be back in the good
old days. He connected this problem to the issue of intellectual
property, saying that US TV manufacturers failed because they
didn't protect it.
Bill Price, Samsung's attorney, asked the judge to call a mistrial
because Apple was appealing to race and making a dubious claim that
it was a failure to protect intellectual property alone that killed
those companies. McElhinny denies that he appealed to race because
he didn't specifically use the word "Asian." An Asian-American
colleague backed McElhinny up.
If you feel like there has been a glitch in the Matrix, you aren't
Yes, Samsung and Apple are in court again. This time, the court is
deciding how much Samsung needs to pay Apple in damages from last
year's trial, when it was accused of copying Apple's signature
style. In August 2012, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages
because the jury decided that Samsung was guilty of infringing on
Apple's design patents, but the same judge, Lucy Koh, cut that
award to $410.5 million, and now the court is back again to decide
what amount is appropriate. Samsung is aiming to get its fees down
to $52 million.
It's hard not to see where Samsung's team is coming from regarding
McElhinny's comment. Even if Samsung has become a little cavalier
with its iPhone look-alikes, it was hobbled by the fact that Apple
is America's corporate sweetheart. There is little else we make
that the world covets anymore. The narrative that Westerners invent
and Asians copy is a pernicious prejudice.
Starting in the late 1960s, when America's de-industrialization
started in earnest, US companies were resting on their laurels
while Asian competitors, led by Japan, were innovating. Thanks to
just-in-time inventory management and a favorable exchange rate,
Japanese companies were able to compete with American brands and
make better, cheaper cars and TVs.
Asians were often scapegoated for the loss of well-paying
industrial jobs in the US. The character Bumpy Johnson in the 2007
, which took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s, voiced this
(OTCMKTS:TOSBF) that. All them ch***s putting Americans out of
work. That's the way it is now. You can't find the heart of
anything to stick the knife," he said.
The perceived connection between Asia and the loss of blue-collar
jobs and decline of manufacturing has even led to hate crimes. In
, a Chinese-American in the Detroit area, was viciously murdered by
laid-off auto workers.
This is the cultural backdrop to this trial and it can't be
Whether or not the jury is influenced by a desire to see the home
team win, there is a twinge of irony here. Only bits and pieces of
the iPhone are made in the United States. Its components are
actually a marvelous cornucopia of parts made in Asia. Aside from
the forthcoming Mac Pro, none of Apple's products are really
Still, a subtle nationalist appeal might not be what helps Apple in
this trial. An email to Samsung engineers reading, "Let's make
something like the iPhone" might. Samsung's loss last year struck
fear into the hearts of all
) original equipment manufacturers, who might stand accused of
cribbing Apple's designs, but the trial mostly covered outdated
technology. Yet another AppSung battle will go down in March that
concerns current models from both tech giants.