Counterintuitive: Did Samsung emerge a winner?

Samsung Galaxy S II

After Samsung’s stunning $1 billion defeat in court at the hands of Apple , calling it a winner might seem awfully far-fetched. But that’s the argument some are making about the South Korean conglomerate.

In a blog post, Robert Scoble said while Samsung will take a big PR hit and lose $1 billion, it was worth it to copy Apple because it vaulted the company ahead of other smartphone rivals. Samsung also sells an array of products that Apple doesn’t and setting up the comparison with Apple worked out well for the entire company, Scoble said.

“It only cost $1 billion to become the #2 most profitable mobile company. Remember how much Microsoft paid for Skype? $8 billion. So, for 1/8th of a Skype Samsung took RIM’s place and kicked HTC’s behind…I bet that RIM wishes it had copied the iPhone a lot sooner than it did. So does Nokia, I bet. Samsung is a much healthier company than any of those BECAUSE it copied the iPhone,” he wrote.

Analyst Jeremiah Owyang, of Altimeter Group, agreed saying Samsung still comes out ahead despite the potential ban on sales and punishment. He said Samsung does $1 billion in revenue every 2.4 days.

Samsung Galaxy S III, Android“The PR upside is that now people associate Samsung’s phone at the same competitive set as Apple’s. I just did a Google search for “Apple phone” and there are multiple Samsung links on the second half of the page. PR win: Any phone Samsung launches will be super hyped — and compared to Apple,” he wrote.

Reuters also highlighted some of the potential upside for Samsung in the verdict, saying it could actually help cement Samsung’s place atop the  global smartphone market. As a “fast executioner”, Samsung should be able to churn out new devices that don’t infringe on Apple patents and avoid any potential ban. And if Apple is able to get Samsung to pay $10 per device and force other smartphone makers to do the same, Samsung is still better positioned than others to absorb the cost.

Samsung still faces the stigma of being a copy cat and there is the looming threat that the damages could be tripled because of willful infringement. But it might have been worth it if Samsung’s brand gets elevated to Apple’s level, said Reuters.

“If anything, the blaze of publicity from the high-profile, high-stakes U.S. litigation has made Samsung’s brand more recognizable…Despite, or because of, the publicity from the U.S. case, and more than a dozen pending cases elsewhere around the globe, the Samsung brand has gained recognition — as an equal to Apple rather than merely a supplier,” Reuters said.

I think it’s too early to declare Samsung a clear “winner” in this case. A lot will depend on how the damages pile up, whether it can appeal and potentially secure a licensing deal and how much future devices are impacted. Being branded a patent infringer is not something you want to brag about. So Samsung may not emerge a real winner, but the argument can be made it would accept the “loser” tag in exchange for keeping its place atop the smartphone market.

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