TIME

Lindsay Lohan Should Win Her GTA Lawsuit

Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014
Lindsay Lohan in 2007; Lacey Jonas in 2014 Clark Samuels—Startraks; Rockstar

I'm no legal expert, but I know my tabloid stars, and I see the evidence that Grand Theft Auto's Lacey Jonas shares some Lohan DNA

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would suggest that the lawsuit Lindsay Lohan filed last week against the makers of Grand Theft Auto isn’t annoying. Yes, it would be nice if Lindsay would go back to being an actual movie star, rather than wasting precious time insisting that her “unequivocal” similarity to Lacey Jonas, a minor character in Grand Theft Auto 5, entitles her to compensation. And yes it would be nice if this weren’t Lohan’s third similar lawsuit. But the fact is, like her or not, the 28-year-old actress/docu-drama subject/paparazzi bait might in fact have a bare, slightly bruised leg to stand on.

Lindsay Lohan is not someone you’d want taking care of your grandmother or even your guppy. But that’s not what’s in question here. What is—put so well in Forbes by intellectual property attorney Kim Landsman—is this: “How recognizable is Lindsay Lohan as the Lacey Jonas character? Would it be recognized specifically as her or as a generic, blond, bimbo actress?” It seems to me that the answers are a. very and b. yes.

Obviously there’s the fact that the hotel in the game, Gentry Manor, brings to mind Chateau Marmont, a place Lindsay has frequented. Then there’s the whole running away from the paparazzi thing that’s pretty Lilo-esque. But let’s get to the stuff that’s more exclusively her. First of all, Lacey’s voice. The way that she makes a declarative, despairing statement “This is a disaster!” and then rambles “Oh my God, I’m so f—ing fat. Oh my God! They cannot get a shot of me!” and then throws out a generally desperate and kind of unanswerable question “How’s my hair? Do I look cute?” Sorry, Rockstar — that is not a “generic” voice, or “generic” speech patterns. No one else sort of wails at the end of everything she says quite like Lohan. And if you don’t know what I mean, please enjoy this clip of Lohan on her reality show upbraiding her assistant for not getting her new keys made fast enough.

Then there are the outfits, which Lacey wears not only in the game but also in promotional material, that the lawsuit mentions explicitly and at great length as being Lohann-y. If I were the Lohan legal team I would forget about the stuff that sort of looks like Lohan would wear it — Lohan did not invent or perfect the short-short, high-heels, 800-necklace look — and concentrate instead on the image for Grand Theft Auto’s cover, which is a blonde model in a bikini giving the peace sign and taking a selfie. Model Shelby Welinder posed for the ads in 2012, but the Lohan photo that looks EXACTLY like it was taken in 2007. Also, if you said to three million people, “Hey, you know that picture of a blonde chick taking a selfie and giving the peace sign, in a bikini? Who is she?” two million of them would say “What?” but the other million would say “Lindsay Lohan,” and the number of people saying, ‘Oh, isn’t that Shelby Welinder?” well, that would be zero.

Finally, there’s Lacey’s personality. She’s demanding, yelling to the poor motorcycle racing protagonist she’s forced into giving her a ride “Go faster! Go faster.” But demanding is pretty basic. Lacey could just as well be channeling Mariah Carey. Or even Katherine Heigl, if Heigl weren’t more of a stay-at-home complainer, with no personality to rip off. If demanding is too broad a category to make GTA 5’s work “unequivocally” Lohan-inspired, then there’s the arrogance: Lacey shouts “I’m really famous!” and is generally appalled that the motorcyclist doesn’t know who she is. Only a few actors have been caught pulling the fame card, Lindsay among them. (Lindsay’s mother Dina even asked someone “Do you know who I am?”)

Lindsay Lohan might not be the classiest person around, but she’s special in other ways. Not everyone can say theyowe the Chateau Marmont $46,000. Not everyone can claim to be America’s sweetheart and then run over it all with a limo. And not everyone can lie to Oprah. There is only one Lindsay, and surely, at this point, she’s at least got a right to that.

Sarah Miller writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME movies

If You Sell Your Oscar, You’re Going to Get Sued

The heirs of Oscar winner Joseph Wright are being taken to court for allegedly selling the statuette he won for a 1942 musical

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is suing the heirs of the 1942 Oscar winner Joseph Wright, as well as auction house Briarbrook Auctions, for allegedly selling an Oscar statuette, according to the Hollywood Reporter (THR).

In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the academy claimed that the trophy’s sale to the anonymous buyer breached the academy’s rules, which prohibits its members — and anyone who inherits an Oscar — from selling or disposing of the statuette without offering the academy a right of first refusal to purchase it for a sum of $10.

Wright won the Oscar for his work on color and art direction for My Gal Sal, a musical starring screen legend Rita Hayworth.

The academy is known for being protective of its golden Oscars and has taken legal action in the past.

Briarbrook Auctions did not immediately respond to THR’s request for comment.

[THR]

TIME Oculus Rift

Oculus VR Company Sued By Game Maker Over Copyright Claims

Oculus VR

Game publisher goes to court for its chunk of change after Oculus gets bought by Facebook.

ZeniMax Media and id Software have sued Oculus VR and its founder Palmer Luckey for allegedly stealing trade secrets and infringing on copyright, among other claims.

The rift began outside of court earlier this month when ZeniMax said that it’d been wronged by former employee and game development legend John Carmack. ZeniMax said Carmack, who became Oculus’ CTO in August of last year, did “extensive VR research and development” while still working at id Software, which is owned by ZeniMax.

Because of Carmack’s work, and a non-disclosure agreement signed by Luckey, ZeniMax felt it was entitled to a non-dilutable equity stake in Oculus, which would be worth a lot now that Facebook is buying it for $2 billion. Oculus previously disputed ZeniMax’s claims and pointed out that Carmack left Zenimax after it stopped investing in virtual reality games.

The lawsuit, as published by The Verge, claims that Carmack worked extensively on Oculus technology at id Software’s offices and even demonstrated the technology to the press there. ZeniMax also claims that it has been researching virtual reality since the 1990s and came up with a VR prototype for some of its major games, including The Elder Scrolls.

“As a result of their years of research, and months of hard work modifying the prototype Rift to incorporate ZeniMax’s VR Technology, Carmack and others at ZeniMax transformed the Rift from $500 worth of optics into a powerful, immersive virtual reality experience,” the lawsuit says.

Oculus has not yet responded, but with millions of dollars on the line, it’s safe to assume this is going to get messy.

Update: Oculus has responded with the following statement: “The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously.”

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

TIME Technologizer

An Apple-Samsung Patent Battle Ends with a Whimper

General Samsung And Apple Products Images
An iPhone 4S and a Samsung Galaxy S III, as photographed in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Who's the winner here? Not consumers. And probably neither Apple nor Samsung

The latest news in the Apple-Samsung patent saga came down Friday afternoon in a California court, when a jury ruled that Samsung had violated two of five software Apple patents. Additionally, it ruled that Apple had violated one of two Samsung patents, but not willfully.

Apple had been seeking $2.2 billion in damages, but the jury awarded just $119.6 million. It also awarded Samsung $158,400. A the time of writing, there’s some confusion over one Samsung product that was found to infringe an Apple patent, but which the jury didn’t award damages for.

There’s nothing decisive about that outcome, but presumably Apple regards Samsung as having gotten off easy, and Samsung is relieved. The Korean company was cleared on three out of the five patents and owes Apple an amount that is–by gigantic electronics manufacturer standards–peanuts. (Two years ago, Apple was awarded a more imposing $930 million over a different set of design-related patents.)

For Apple, the battle isn’t just against Samsung, and it’s not just about money. Steve Jobs was so irate over the degree to which Google’s Android operating system mimicked Apple’s iPhone software that he famously said he was willing to go thermonuclear over it. So far, neither Samsung nor Android seems to have been blasted back into the pre-iPhone stone age. Still, Apple’s suits–and the scads of other ones between an array of patent holders that have followed it–may have left everybody involved at least slightly more cautious about treading on other companies’ intellectual property.

For instance, the products Samsung has released since Apple first filed suit haven’t been the slavish knockoffs they might have been if it had felt free to copy at will. When technology companies sue each other over patents, I generally don’t take sides. Here’s a confession, though: If both Apple and Samsung end up regretting this whole process, it wouldn’t pain me.

Court battles like this are expensive distractions that only sap attention and resources better put to building the best possible products. That makes them bad for consumers. They can be bad for the companies involved, too, if it dulls their competitive edge. Exhibit A: Polaroid’s legendary suit against Kodak over instant photography–which ended in both a legal and moral victory for Polaroid, but didn’t do a thing to help the company prepare itself for the brave new world of photography ahead. In fact, it surely hurt, since founder Edwin Land, Polaroid’s resident genius, poured his time and intellectual capital into beating Kodak in court rather than in the marketplace. A few decades from now, when business historians look back at this period, they’ll know things we don’t yet, including how Apple and Samsung fared over the long haul.

I can’t imagine anyone will conclude that the patent tussle played a decisive role one way or another. Instead, it’ll have more to do with whether the companies stayed hungry or rested on their laurels. Which means that the sooner everyone involved puts the era of courtroom drama behind them, the better–for Apple, for Samsung and for all of us.

TIME legal

Doom Creator Accused of Stealing Virtual Reality Tech, Taking It to Oculus

Oculus VR

ZeniMax claims id Software co-founder John Carmack pilfered virtual reality tech when he quit to join Oculus VR last year, though both Carmack and Oculus are flatly denying the charges.

Well this sounds ugly, and bound to get uglier: John Carmack, the fellow gamers know best for helping birth Doom, and who left id Software last year to take a job as chief technology officer with Oculus Rift headset designer Oculus VR (who were in turn recently snatched up by Facebook for a cool $2 billion), has been accused by his former employer, ZeniMax, of purloining virtual reality secrets the games publisher claims belong to it, not Oculus VR.

ZeniMax Media, which also owns Bethesda Game Studios (The Elder Scrolls series and Fallout 3) and Arkane Studios (Dishonored) claims that Carmack was involved in “extensive VR research and development” during his tenure at ZeniMax, according to the Wall Street Journal. That, says ZeniMax, gives it dibs on “key technology used by Oculus to develop and market the Oculus Rift,” and thus the right to seek compensation.

According to the Journal, ZeniMax is staking its case on allegations that Carmack was in touch with Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey before leaving ZeniMax, that Carmack received a prototype headset from Luckey, and that he made innovations to the headset, which he then demoed during a convention.

“ZeniMax’s intellectual property rights arise by reason of extensive VR research and development works done over a number of years by John Carmack while a ZeniMax employee, and others,” writes ZeniMax in a press statement (via Engadget). “ZeniMax provided necessary VR technology and other valuable assistance to Palmer Luckey and other Oculus employees in 2012 and 2013 to make the Oculus Rift a viable VR product, superior to other VR market offerings.”

The statement continues:

The proprietary technology and know-how Mr. Carmack developed when he was a ZeniMax employee, and used by Oculus, are owned by ZeniMax. Well before the Facebook transaction was announced, Mr. Luckey acknowledged in writing ZeniMax’s legal ownership of this intellectual property. It was further agreed that Mr. Luckey would not disclose this technology to third persons without approval. Oculus has used and exploited ZeniMax’s technology and intellectual property without authorization, compensation or credit to ZeniMax. ZeniMax and Oculus previously attempted to reach an agreement whereby ZeniMax would be compensated for its intellectual property through equity ownership in Oculus but were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution. ZeniMax believes it is necessary to address these matters now and will take the necessary action to protect its interests.

Oculus’s response? Balderdash: “It’s unfortunate, but when there’s this type of transaction, people come out of the woodwork with ridiculous and absurd claims,” an Oculus VR representative told the Journal. “We intend to vigorously defend Oculus and its investors to the fullest extent.”

And Carmack himself has weighed in on Twitter:

That’s all we know so far, which is to say that it’s best to stay off the playing field just now in terms rallying for one side or another, since the only folks who know who’s telling (or twisting) the truth are John Carmack, ZeniMax and Oculus VR.

TIME movies

Author of Gravity the Novel Sues Makers of Gravity the Movie

GRAVITY
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Tess Gerritsen, the best-selling author behind the Rizzoli and Isles series, has filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. The writer claims that Alfonso Cuarón's script for the space blockbuster is partially based on her 1999 novel of the same name

Novelist Tess Gerritsen filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. on Tuesday, claiming the studio failed to acknowledge that its box office smash Gravity was partially based on one of her books, and that it now owes her 2.5% of the movie’s net profits.

Gerritsen’s suit isn’t for copyright infringement, reports the New York Times, since a Warner Bros. subsidiary bought the film rights to the novel Gravity in 1999. The lawsuit claims that Warner Bros. is in breach of contract, as the studio failed to give the author a “based upon” credit in the film, which was a stipulation in the sale of her novel’s rights. Also a stipulation, according to Gerritsen’s suit, was a production bonus of $500,000 if the movie were made and a fee of 2.5% of net profits from ticket and DVD and TV reruns.

Interestingly, Gerritsen didn’t originally believe that the 2013 film, from writer and director Alfonso Cuarón, had anything to do with her novel, despite the fact that the two had the same title, setting and general plot. (Both feature a woman astronaut stranded in space.)

Yet Gerritsen’s lawyer, Glen L. Kulik, told the New York Times that the author now believes Cuarón based his script on her novel, after discovering some unnamed, mystery information. “We’ve since come up with some other ties through a little investigation,” he told the Times, somewhat cryptically.

Neither Warner Bros. or Cuarón responded to the Times‘ requests for comment. The film Gravity won seven Oscars and took in more than $716 million at the box office, which means Gerritsen could be looking at a $17 million payday if her suit is successful.

[NYT]

TIME Television

Orphan Black Creators Sued for Cloning Writer’s Idea

A writer claims the BBC screenplay is based off an idea he submitted to the production company a decade ago

Either the Orphan Black plot was cloned or the hit BBC show’s producers have some explaining to do. That is, at least, according to a writer suing BBC and Temple Street Productions for copyright infringement.

Writer Stephen Hendricks claims key aspects of the show are near carbon copies of plot points from a screenplay he submitted to Temple Street co-president, David Fortier, in 2004, according to a Huffington Post report. In the complaint, Hendricks says the protagonist in his screenplay “Double Double” and the protagonist in Orphan Black are both “young (early 20s) attractive women who want the same thing: to understand who they are and where they come from.” Cloning is also a recurring theme in Hendricks work, much like the BBC show about a young woman who discovers she and many others are clones.

Orphan Black’s creators are listed as Graeme Manson and John Fawcett, who reportedly sent a spec script to Fortier. Hendricks says they’re script has to be based off of his idea. He’s seeking $5 million in damages from the suit.

[Huffington Post]

TIME Business

Want To Give Up All Your Legal Rights? Click Here.

General Mills wants to restrict your ability to sue. Welcome to the latest in corporate skullduggery.

My Lucky Charms were too soggy this morning. I’m going to sue.

If you are a consumer products or services company such as General Mills, this is how you see the world: full of very crazy people and very smart lawyers, which you view as a very bad combination that is more than willing to take you to court over the moisture levels of breakfast foods. Or misleading labels. Or unproven health claims. Silly stuff like that.

Which is part of the explanation of why General Mills, the owner of popular brands such as Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Nature Valley, Yoplait, Old El Paso, and Progresso, has changed the legal terms for using its web site, or even buying one of its products. As the New York Times pointed out in a delightful piece of reporting, if you so much a download a coupon from the General Mills website it’s the equivalent, in the company’s view, of signing a contract that prohibits you from suing or joining a class action suit against it. Parsing General Mills’s privacy and legal sections will cost you about 7,000 words of reading time, but the operative ones are as follows: “These terms are a binding legal agreement (‘Agreement’) between you and General Mills.” You probably didn’t think that buying a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla would imply a contractual obligation on your part.

If the Bisquick hits the fan, in other words, you can’t go running to court. You are required to deal with the company in a private arbitration — hey, Mills will even pick up the cost. So downloading a 50-cent-off coupon on your next purchase of Hamburger Helper discounts your legal recourse. Sure seems like Big Business operating in a this-is-why-we- hate-them-model, with the corporate legal department playing its traditional starring role. “General Mills is proud to market some of the world’s most-trusted brands,” the company says in the introduction to this fine print.

It’s you that Mills doesn’t trust.

There’s a ton of fine print in our everyday lives that we almost have to ignore. Each time you download an iPhone operating system update, for instance, up pops an agreement a mile long. I still don’t know what it says, but knowing Apple it probably claims that you should be grateful Apple even lets you own one of its precious gadgets. Don’t even think about legal action. And have you ever read your cable service agreement? I dare you.

Forced arbitration isn’t all that unusual. It’s part of every brokerage agreement, for instance. If you lost a lot of money because your broker sold you risky junk bonds when you thought you’d be getting safer treasury bonds, any dispute coming out of it goes to arbitration. And it’s common among corporations, too, which makes sense if they want to avoid litigation. (Oddly enough, I found a New York state court case in which General Mills sued to void a mandatory arbitration clause in a contract it had with another company.)

But what’s outrageous here is that General Mills seems to be seeking shelter from class action or consumer advocate cases even if it engages in bad corporate behavior: violating nutritional labeling laws, say. Consumers in Florida and California, for instance, sued the company over health benefit claims made by its Yoplait YoPlus and Nature Valley products. The company says its health and nutrition claims are correct — and doesn’t see why it should be subject to a class action claim. You got a beef over yogurt, let’s go to arbitration.

There’s a lot at stake. For decades, the corporate bar and the tort bar — which handles personal injury and class action cases — have been a war over who can sue and under what conditions. Corporations see themselves as victims of overzealous (read ambulance chasing) lawyers. And that’s been true in some abusive disputes such as asbestos litigation. To some degree legislators have agreed with them. Bad corporate behavior, though, never seems to go out of fashion. And given the ineffectiveness of regulators or legislators in reining it in, tort lawyers have acted as the biggest restraint against misbehaving companies.

So maybe as consumers we have to turn the tables on the corporate lawyers. Dear General Mills, please read and endorse this e-mail agreement which states the terms under which I am willing to become a consumer of your trusted brands. You understand that I can’t trust you, because corporate behavior since the Pure Foods Act of 1906 has told me not to. I understand that if my Betty Crocker cake fails to rise— my bad. As for everything else, all bets are off. And by the way: By clicking on this article, you’ve already agreed.

TIME Autos

Your City Could Pay for Car Damage Caused by Potholes. But It Probably Won’t

It’s common to hear that if your car is damaged due to a pothole, you should file a claim to get the locality responsible for the road to cover the expenses. Good luck with that.

Flat tires, bent rims: This winter has been full of them, thanks to months of hellacious weather and an epically bad environment for potholes. Hand-in-hand with this year’s plague of potholes is a surge in pothole-related damage claims filed around the country.

For instance, the Sun Times reported this week that more than 1,100 pothole-related claims were recently submitted in Chicago. Not only did the figure represent a record high, it was nearly quadruple the number of claims introduced at a city council meeting in February (305), which at the time was the highest monthly total seen in four years.

In Chicago, and throughout the country, a driver has the right to file a claim when a car is damaged as a result of a pothole, or any other unsafe road condition that is supposed to be addressed by local public works crews. But for a wide range of reasons, most claims are rejected, and even when cities do pay up, they rarely cover the full costs of repair. Some towns, counties, and entire states are notorious for being ruthless when it comes to rejecting claims, paying off drivers under only the most egregious of circumstances.

(MORE: End of the Road for Speed Traps?)

In theory, Chicago can cover damage claims up to $2,000—above that, you have to take the city to court—but it maintains a general rule of paying no more than one-half of a pothole-related repair, “on the theory that motorists are at least partially responsible for hitting potholes instead of driving around them,” the Sun Times noted, understandably. According to Chicago Magazine, last year the city paid off 754 claims, at an average of $240 per claim.

Chicago appears generous compared to some other cities, such as Colorado Springs. Here, as in other municipalities, the city will refuse to pay if it hasn’t received complaints about the existence of the pothole that’s caused the damage, and also if road crews haven’t been given ample time to patch up the hole. A Colorado TV station recently looked into how Colorado Springs was rejecting pothole-related claims at a rate higher than 98%. In addition to other tactics—such as directing drivers to take up claims with private contractors if they’re doing construction work in the area—the city says that it considers one or two weeks as a reasonable amount of time to address a pothole after drivers start complaining. In other words, if you alert the city of a pothole one day, and then a week or 10 days later your son hits that same pothole and blows a tire, the city probably wouldn’t cover the repair costs.

Drivers in Virginia face an uphill battle as well. A spokesperson for Arlington Country, in Virginia, told a local newspaper that pothole claims were considered on a “case-by-case basis,” but that they were almost universally rejected. “Only in unusual circumstances would the county pay damages, because the county has sovereign immunity and, therefore, under the law, generally has no legal liability,” she said. “It would be a very unusual circumstance that would lead us to accepting a claim.”

The vast majority of drivers will be out of luck in Toronto as well, which was found to have a 96% denial rate according to a recent report. What’s more, in a sample of claims, more than half were rejected “automatically without an investigation.”

Drivers seem to have much better odds, relatively speaking, of getting some cash in Grand Rapids, Mich., where nine out of 55 pothole damage claims were approved for payment last year, for a total of $4,185 in compensation.

(MORE: Why 2014 Will Be an Epically Bad Year for Potholes)

Because claims can and are rejected for every reason under the sun—if cities paid everybody, it would lead to fraud, and they’d go broke, after all—drivers are advised to keep meticulous track of the incident, repair estimates, and expenses incurred. It’s a good idea to take photos of the offending pothole, as well as the damage it caused, and to fill out the local filing claim forms with close attention to detail, in a timely manner. Just don’t expect to hear back from the city in an equally timely fashion. The Chicago Magazine story says that reimbursement can take as long as 18 months.

It’s also advisable to not get your hopes up in general.

TIME Patent Wars

The Apple vs. Samsung Patent War Continues, but the Stakes Are Lower

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with Apple and Samsung logos as he poses with a Samsung Galaxy S4 in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica
Dado Ruvic / Reuters

The look and feel of Samsung's hardware isn't an issue this time around.

Apple is once again trying to extract some cash from Samsung’s Android phone business in a new patent infringement trial, which kicks off today.

Many of the headlines have focused on Google’s potential involvement. Because Samsung says four of Apple’s five infringement claims relate to general Android features, Google engineers will reportedly take the stand to testify in Samsung’s defense. That could make the latest case even more of a Google vs. Apple proxy battle than previous Apple lawsuits against Android vendors. (Apple has never sued Google directly, possibly because it’s harder to claim damages on a company that licenses its Android software for free.)

While the potential for Google testimony is noteworthy, what strikes me even more is how mundane this Apple-Samsung lawsuit is compared to the first one, which reached a jury verdict in 2012.

Apple’s original lawsuit against Samsung was unique because it included design patents. Unlike the lawsuits Apple has filed against HTC, Motorola and other vendors, Apple argued that Samsung was ripping off the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad, not just a few software features.

(A common misinterpretation, by the way, is that Apple was claiming ownership over obvious design elements, such as rounded rectangles. In reality, Apple claimed that the way many of those individual elements came together had been copied by Samsung.)

A jury eventually found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple’s design patents for smartphones, but not for tablets. But as I noted back in 2012, Samsung had already hedged its bets at that point. The company drastically changed the look of its phones starting with the Galaxy S III, so they hardly resemble the iPhone.

In terms of actual consumer impact, this was arguably the most noticeable outcome from the original case, and it happened long before the trial wrapped up. Older phones that were found to have infringed on Apple’s designs were already outdated when the trial was over, and Apple has failed to get them banned anyway.

This time, Apple isn’t making any trade dress claims. Instead, the five patents deal specifically with software features, including slide to unlock, background data syncing, auto-complete, universal search and turning certain messages data into links. For these alleged infringements, Apple is seeking about $2 billion in damages, according to the Wall Street Journal — roughly $500,000 less than what Apple sought in the first trial.

If you’re a typical Samsung user, the dollar figures don’t matter much. Even if Apple wins, the two companies will spend years arguing over money owed — as they still are for the original case — and the final amount will be a fraction of what both companies make in any given quarter.

What matters more is the potential impact on Samsung’s products. But as we’ve seen in other cases, software patents can often be worked around in ways that are barely noticeable. For instance, Samsung dealt with Apple’s “overscroll bounce” effect in the 2012 lawsuit by using a different visual effect as you scroll past the boundary of a web page. That same year, HTC worked around an Apple patent governing what happens when you tap on a phone number, taking users into the phone’s dialer instead of showing a pop-up dialog box. Whereas the physical design of a phone must be planned months or years in advance, a software update can be delivered instantly at no cost, so there’s less risk of future products being jeopardized.

Perhaps just as importantly, this won’t be a case where Apple can embarrass Samsung in the court of public opinion, as it did last time when Samsung’s lawyers couldn’t tell an iPad from a Galaxy Tab. That’s a design issue, and it won’t come up in this case. So while the dollar figures are similar this time around, there’s a lot less on the line.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser