An important blow has been struck in the ongoing litigation between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics – a South Korean court has reached a ruling regarding the patent clashes between the two companies. Perturbingly, it looks like neither one has escaped unscathed. The Seoul court reached the conclusion on Friday that Samsung did not infringe upon the designs of the iPhone or iPad, with the judge stating that “these similarities had been documented in previous products”, which constitutes a tactic confirmation of Samsung’s ‘prior art’ defence. The judge went on to note that it would be difficult for consumers to mistake the products, as Apple had claimed, owing to the branded company logos and the significant differences in operating systems, applications, prices and contract services between the two, which also jibes well with Samsung’s defence of consumer intelligence (with a Samsung attorney in the flagship U.S court case protesting that “consumers demand more choice, not less”). Nevertheless, Samsung were fined 25 million Won (approximately £12,000) for infringing upon Apple’s “bounce-back” function in regards to scrolling, and face a ban of ten products, including the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy SII. Apple, meanwhile, were found guilty of infringing upon two of Samsung’s wireless technology patents, and face a fine of 40 million won (approximately £22,500), as well as an embargo of four of their products – including the iPad 2 and iPhone 4. Fines of this size are peanuts to the two companies, who regularly boast revenue above 10 billion USD per year, but even given the modest size of the market in South Korea, those sales bans are bound to sting a little, even if they don’t eat into the profit margins significantly. However, it’s a bad omen for both companies: the much-touted U.S patent trial reached the point of deliberation on Wednesday, with nine jurors currently discussing the high-stakes patent battle between the two. Apple is demanding a staggering $2.5 billion in damages, along with a ruling that Samsung’s ‘infringing’ products face a permanent ban; Samsung, meanwhile, demands $422 million, claiming that Apple have violated several of its wireless technology-related patents. While both companies face significant loss of face depending on which way the pendulum swings in the US trial, the results could be far worse for North American consumers; if Apple win, Samsung may be forced to pay them significant royalties on every Smartphone they ship, which may result in rising costs (in addition to the distinct possibility that several products – including some of the flagship Galaxy range – are banned). If Samsung wins, Apple may face a similar royalty rate; but far more importantly for the company that prides itself upon ingenuity and originality would be the loss of face incurred through such a ruling. Such a ruling may tarnish their reputation in their coveted North American marketplace, and result in a significant loss of sales from the traditional Apple faithful. And if a similar conclusion to that of the Seoul trial is reached, everyone loses – except the lawyers and expert witnesses, who will pocket a pretty penny for their involvement in what’s fast becoming the technology trial of the century. For our part, we echo Judge Lucy Koh’s optimism, and hope that both companies manage to reach an understanding in the future. When companies like Samsung and Apple cease focusing on their superb products in lieu of focusing upon litigation, everybody loses – whether that loss is in money or dignity remains to be seen.