I can't say I'm the biggest student of Gandhi, but that whole "an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind" bit sure came to mind this morning when I read that Samsung's head of mobile, Shin Jong-kyun, said the company "[does not] intend to (negotiate) at all" with Apple. This came on news of HTC's settlement with Apple on Saturday, which I contend is objectively good for the industry and consumers, no matter how you spin it.
First, let's look at the backstory. Apple and Samsung are involved in probably over a dozen various legal entanglements across the world. None of those suits have settled, and only one has gone on to be a definitive victory for Apple. Of course, it's also the one that took place in the country that, economically speaking, matters most: the United States. The US is still the single most lucrative smartphone market on earth, and has become the key legal battleground for the mobile patent wars.
In August, Apple landed a monster $1 billion verdict against Samsung (though that number is subject to some change, most likely). More important, in my opinion, was the fact that Samsung tallied up a whopping $0 in damages against Apple for its own patent infringement counterclaims.
While even more Samsung patents are going to be in play as part of Apple v. Samsung: Round 2 (scheduled for trial... in 2014), the result of this first verdict was a double win for Apple. Even if Apple's damages are reduced, even if the trial has aspects that end up needing to be re-argued to a new jury, Apple's still ahead. Not only did they "prove" (I use that in the legal, not the practical, sense) that Samsung copied their iPhone design and software patents, they showed that Samsung's "two can play at this game" strategy was an utter failure. Bring that down to the quality of advocacy, the jury, the venue, or whatever you like - that's what happened.
Before the trial, Apple offered Samsung a license for its infringed patents - at a cost of $30 per phone, and $40 per tablet (or $24 and $32, respectively, if Samsung cross-licensed back). Which is absolutely absurd. Apple likely knew Samsung wouldn't take it (in terms of cost of production, this is probably a 10-15% royalty). Apple would have likely included "anti-cloning" provisions in this license for its design patents, similar to agreements it currently has with Microsoft on these same patents.
However, Apple reached a mutually amicable agreement with HTC that resulted in an estimated $6-8 per handset royalty, if not less. And since Apple's original licensing offer, Samsung's hardware and software design and features have changed significantly. The Galaxy S line is no longer the sort-of-iPhone-looking device it once was. TouchWiz doesn't feel like it's trying to imitate iOS so much anymore. The realities of a licensing deal have changed, and Apple and Samsung both know this. Apple knows that its legal efforts have effectively pushed Samsung away from its designs and UX. Even Samsung's new tablets look very little like iPads - even as the difficulty of designing around the iPad's registered design has basically become a tacky pop culture reference.
Things are different now than they were in 2010. Much different. Samsung is a much bigger player in the smartphone market, and its products have grown further and further apart from Apple's. That's why I have such a hard time believing that Samsung, a multi-hundred-billion dollar electronics giant, doesn't intend to negotiate "at all" with Apple. That's ridiculous - of course they do. Samsung and Apple are billion-dollar business partners. Letting this global disagreement sour their entire business relationship would be monumentally stupid. You don't cut off your nose to spite your face.
Mr. Shin could mean what he said, but I am highly skeptical. I'm not saying that he was being disingenuous, so much as he was putting on his poker face for the Korean media. But If he did mean it, and Samsung truly doesn't intend to negotiate with Apple, then I cannot clearly see the difference between Samsung's resolute assertion of its complete innocence, and Apple's arrogance in the absolute validity of all its claims. If there can be no compromise, then the only real winners in all this are the lawyers.