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Corporate Counsel Lessons from the Apple Samsung Case

By Andrew Lu on September 19, 2012 6:54 AM

Apple and Samsung are waging a global battle over patent infringement, and Apple was recently vindicated in a U.S. court.

While Apple "won" the case and can now seek to enforce its patents in the U.S., the company shelled out millions in attorneys fees and a considerable amount of time and manpower to achieve victory.

It's always good to win, and it must feel really good to be vindicated in court. But Apple's patent infringement litigation strategy against Samsung may not be the best litigation model for most middle market companies to follow, reports Forbes.

The unfortunate truth is that you may be completely in the right regarding a patent infringement action, but still lose if you choose to fight it out in court.

Patent litigation is not cheap, and even medium-sized companies can find their legal bills quickly approaching the tens of millions of dollars. So when a company chooses to enforce its patents or to defend against a patent infringement claim, the company could be bankrupted even if it is technically in the right. The reality is that you don't have the war chest that Apple (or even Samsung) has.

So the lesson to take away from the Apple Samsung case may not be to vigorously protect your patents, but to pick and choose when to fight, and when to concede (even if you are right). Here are some considerations you should consider when dealing with potential patent litigation, as compiled by Forbes:

  • Pick your legal fights. Only defend or enforce your patents when you know you can win -- and the victory won't cost too much. Otherwise, the smart move may be to turn the other cheek, regardless of how right you are.
  • Remember that litigation is part of business. Don't get emotional about a lawsuit, especially if you believe you are getting bullied around. Think about the costs and benefits, and base your decision on numbers and not feelings.
  • Don't be a hero. It's always great to set precedence and make legal history. But historical cases are oftentimes the expensive cases. Let someone else play hero.

These lessons from the Apple Samsung patent infringement case may seem like a downer. But sometimes turning the other cheek is the more heroic decision than going all-in in a legal battle against someone much larger than you.

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