To highlight this point just take a look at the Samsung V Apple case. All it took was Samsung releasing information to a few (four) news agencies and the leaked information about the excluded evidence was all over the internet in less than 24 hours. Other companies have done the same thing, and in fact in the Oracle V Google trial Judge William Alsup is requiring both Google and Oracle produce information on “all authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have reported or commented on any issues in this case and who have received money (other than normal subscription fees) from the party or its counsel during the pendency of this action.”
Alsup is rightly concerned that paid commentators might affect the outcome of the case during the appeals process (along with a few other issues). It would not be the first time that companies have been caught paying for information to be presented to the public. There is now a slight concern in some circles that Apple (and also Samsung) might be doing the same thing in the current case.
Considering the headlines and the spin on information, we would be guessing that Apple might be relying on journalists a little more than Samsung. During testimony, Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller even stated that they relied on the media to spread the word about the iPhone. At one point he said they relied on the awesome reviews of the iPhone to help push the iPhone sales. We all know that Apple has special relationships with a few sites, but there has been no real indication that money changes hands. Instead, we see special treatment in the form of early copies of products, hardware for review, etc. These are things that many companies do, but for the most part they do not require any type of positive press in return. Usually they send the products for review, comparison, etc. without expectation.
On the other hand we have noticed that the companies and sites that receive direct support from Apple are also the same sites that are spinning what is happening in the Samsung V Apple case in Apple’s favor. One of my favorite examples that has been incorrectly reported over and over is the study that Samsung did with Best Buy. This study was performed at 30 Best Buys in 3 States, where consumers were asked the reasons they were returning their Galaxy Tab devices. The results were:
25% had issues - the browser would freeze, the screen wasn’t sensitive enough or Wi-Fi connectivity was poor.
17% mentioned other issues - screen lag, low battery life, and problems syncing with a computer.
10% said Android Honeycomb was hard to use
9% wanted to exchange for an iPad 2
8% didn’t find apps (or good enough apps) like Hulu, Netflix, or Skype
6% complained about speed and performance
What has been reported is that people returned the Galaxy Tab because they believed they were iPads. Yet nowhere in the study did it show that anyone thought they were buying an iPad. It does show that 9% of people returning a Galaxy Tab wanted to exchange it for an iPad, but that is a far cry from being confused about the originally purchased product.
On the other side of the coin we have also seen headlines touting that Apple’s “experts” have provided damning evidence against Samsung. Unfortunately these are also far from the truth. These site have enjoyed headlines that quote the words “similar”, “slavish copying”, and worse. The truth of these is also found in the actual court records and testimony. The recent testimony of Susan Kare, who claims to have mistaken a Galaxy phone for an iPhone is a personal favorite. This witness is a former employee of Apple who is also receiving some $80,000 to testify on Apple’s behalf. She is also supposed to be an expert on graphic design. As a graphic designer, she is supposed to be good at spotting the details (because the details are important), yet she missed the fact that the phone she “thought” was an iPhone was a different product. We have our doubts about that one.
Another one that will be popping up is the “design crisis” memo where many sites are trying to claim that Samsung intentionally copied Apple. The document compares Samsung products to the iPhone (in the same way that Apple compared other companies’ products to the iPhone) in an almost line by line fashion. Something missing from the news articles however, are the suggestions and comments of how to make these items different from the iPhone and Apple’s designs. Realistically, the document is almost worthless in terms of proving willful copying. All it shows is that Samsung took a bestselling phone and reviewed its design to improve their own products. This is a common tactic in electronics and is something that Apple has done as well (for example, the notification pull down). Still, the reporting on this is so bad that you might get the impression that Samsung only did this with Apple products, which is simply not true.
We wonder what would happen if Judge Lucy Koh required Apple and Samsung to reveal any deals made with the press before and during the trial which resulted in either promised support, or money exchange. It might put a whole new spin on the “news” coming out of the trial just like it put on Foss Patent’s Florian Mueller, a person that was once considered very neutral in the patent wars before his voluntary disclosure of having been a paid consultant for Oracle.
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