Much has been written about the recent patent infringement case between Apple and Samsung. (Or should I say cases?) But, I’ll give a quick overview. Apple sues Samsung for a variety of patent infringements relating to the design and the user interface (e.g., the icons and how to interact with them). Samsung counter sues arguing that Apple infringed on a variety of its patent. And, so on and so forth….
In the United States, a jury decision resulted in a $1.05 billion USD decision against Samsung. However, the patent dispute reached far abroad, and the results has been mixed.
Patent cases may be tried by a jury in the United States. Apparently, that’s not the case in other countries. Of course, patents are large and complicated types of documents that at times seems absurd. In this case for instance, icons, scrolling, and the shape of the device were among the questions.
Anyway, the observation that patent cases are usually not tried by juries in other countries got me thinking. Did the narrative of court cases in popular media affect how the jury came up with its decision? And, if so, to what extent?
Of course, these question is largely unanswerable unless we do some in-depth interviews with the jury. In fact, since the jury has been dismissed for sometime now and undoubtedly have been exposed to what popular media have been saying about the case, I suspect these questions are unanswerable. But, nevertheless they’re interesting to think about.
Here’s my thinking: There has also been much talk about the so-called “CSI effect” in which juries supposedly expect much more scientific data that might not be available or even useful because of crime procedural shows like CSI Miami. Patent cases, it seems, are not like murder trials. That is, there is no largely clear crime with an accused “doer” and victim. In fact, in the Apple v. Samsung situation, who did what is not in question– it’s whether what was done a “crime” in the first place. Might the narrative behind how a jury is supposed to act in relation to a criminal case affect how juries think of their roles in patent cases? And, because patents are such large and complicated animals, should those cases be decided by juries in the first place?
Granted the CSI effect itself is largely anecdotal and there has been no serious study, that I know of. But, it points to a broader phenomenon. That is, there seems to be a narrative in the United States about what a jury should do, what it should be able to decide, which evidence, and testimony it finds compelling or valid. After all, the very idea behind the CSI effect hypothesis does seem to imply an underlying narrative about court cases and by extension juries. And, narratives are profoundly important to how we understand reality.