FORTUNE -- Under the headline Samsung-Apple Patent Fight: Is It Worth It?, Wednesday's Wall Street Journal takes a long look at three years of smartphone litigation and concludes that the answer is no.
"A string of rulings in big cases has left litigants with little to show for all the trouble," writes the Journal's Ashby Jones in the "nut" paragraph that states the thesis of his piece. "The courts have proven as likely to deliver plaintiffs a rebuke as a win, and the slow grinding of the justice system has sapped the impact of the occasional big victories."
The problem with pairing this thesis with that headline is that it conflates two kinds of patents:
Jones is correct that a string of rulings in SEP cases have left litigants with little to show for their efforts. Indeed, such lawsuits often backfire. Just last week a preliminary European Union ruling found Google's (GOOG) Motorola division guilty of abusing of its standards-essential patents when it sued Microsoft (MSFT) over the use of a popular video compression standard.
But the $1.05 billion Samsung-Apple verdict is the exception that proves the rule.
Apple (AAPL) sued Samsung for adopting its innovations -- its non-SEP patents -- without permission. Samsung counter-sued solely on the basis of its SEPs.
In this case -- as in almost every other case involving SEPs -- the jury threw out Samsung's claims. On the question of whether Samsung had infringed Apple's innovation patents, the jury found Samsung liable on nearly every charge.
See the difference?
With one minor quibble, I can't argue with the rest of Jones' piece. Patent litigation is too slow. By the time Apple won its case against one generation of Samsung devices, a new generation was already on store shelves. And it could well be that some of the patents Apple tried to enforce in court should not have been granted in the first place.
But Jones repeats a common error when he writes that the Apple v. Samsung judge "slash[ed] the damages award by about $450.5 million." Judge Lucy Koh "vacated" part of the ruling, but did not throw it out. Instead, she ordered a new trial to determine whether that portion of the original $1.05 billion award should be reduced or -- less likely, but still possible -- increased.
How could the press get the effect of a judge's high-profile ruling so wrong?
FORTUNE -- When Judge Lucy Koh last month ordered a new trial to determine the proper damage award for 14 of the 28 Samsung devices found by a jury last summer to have infringed Apple (AAPL) patents, nearly every reporter covering story followed Reuters' lead:
"Apple had a major setback in its ongoing mobile patents battle with Samsung Electronics MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 1, 2013 6:35 AM ET
To protect the iPhone's fragile screen when falling, it would shift its center of balance
FORTUNE -- We don't usually write about Apple's (AAPL) patents because the company files so many and so few ever see the light of day.
But for Patent Application No. 20130073095, published Thursday and spotted by AppleInsider's Mikey Campbell, we'll make an exception.
It describes a sensor-and-microprocessor system that can detect when an iPhone or iPad is falling and MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 21, 2013 7:57 AM ET
For Samsung, even March 2014 is too early for Apple's case against the Galaxy S3
FORTUNE -- When we reported last September that that Apple (AAPL) had added Samsung's flagship Galaxy S3 to a patent infringement suit scheduled to go on trial in March 2014, some readers thought the trial date was typo.
After all, Apple had filed this second suit -- not be confused with the one that ended in August MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 8, 2013 8:12 AM ET
Could this be the iWatch we've been hearing so much about?
FORTUNE -- Early Thursday morning, AppleInsider's Mikey Campbell came across a patent filed by Apple (AAPL) in August 2011 that sounds a lot like the touchscreen iWatch Apple is rumored to be building using Corning's (GLW) flexible Willow glass. It also looks a lot like the slap bracelets my kids used to wear when they were in grade school.Philip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 21, 2013 7:13 AM ET
The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act opened the door to more post-grant reviews
FORTUNE -- On Wednesday, Samsung informed a federal court -- and the Wall Street Journal dutifully reported -- that the U.S. Patent Office had "rejected" all claims of an Apple (AAPL) patent (the so-called "pinch to zoom" patent, or '915) that the Journal described as "a cornerstone of its case against Samsung."
In October, the Patent and Trademark Office tentatively concluded MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 20, 2012 7:13 AM ET
"Causal nexus" is key. Meanwhile, Samsung's jury misconduct claim is a nonstarter
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) lost an important ruling Monday night when a U.S. federal judge denied its request for a permanent ban on a collection of Samsung products that Apple charged -- and a jury ruled -- had willfully infringed Apple's patents.
Samsung, for its part, lost what most court watchers believed was a long-shot bid for a retrial based MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 18, 2012 6:58 AM ET
The odds are stacked against Samsung on jury misconduct, liability, injunctions etc.
FORTUNE -- "All eyes are on San Jose," writes Christopher Carani in a preamble to his analysis of the big Apple v. Samsung hearing scheduled for Thursday in Judge Lucy Koh's federal court.
"This is a major hearing in an extremely important patent case that impacts one of this country's most critical and fastest growing industries... This case will have implications far MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Dec 6, 2012 6:54 AM ET
A well-crafted rejoinder, pre-approved for copying and pasting where indicated
FORTUNE -- A reader who called himself "jabberwolf" posted a poorly spelled and ungrammatical comment here Saturday in which he attacked Apple (AAPL) for a variety of alleged transgressions, including a claim that Steve Jobs put his name on hundreds of patents to which he contributed absolutely nothing.
In response, FalKirk, one of our favorite commenters, posted this:
In related news, scientists fear MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 3, 2012 6:02 AM ET
If you didn't already know about the Smithsonian's exhibit, you'd never find it
FORTUNE -- First you have to find which of the Smithsonian's 19 museums houses the Steve Jobs' exhibit that opened last week -- not an easy task for someone unfamiliar with the monumental geography of Washington D.C.
Then, once you locate the Ripley Center -- a tiny circular building, just to the right of the Institute's big red castle -- MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 20, 2012 6:08 PM ET
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