Trigger and Cascade

Trigger events are those with long term after-effects. We’ve seen one recently in the technology sector. Apple prevailed in its patent infringement suit against Samsung. It’s not the billion-dollar award that’s most significant. It’s the implications of the decision.

It was a complex issue, perhaps too complex for a jury of laypeople to decide. Apple was charging infringement not only on how their devices work but how they look. This includes software features, hardware and high-speed communication ability, as well as something called "trade dress," the overall look and feel of a device.

My work with clients and executive education sessions often involve an “implication cascade” – thinking about the after-effects, results, perhaps consequences of a future event. Here are potential implications from the Apple vs. Samsung decision.

  • There is a new wave of creativity in handheld and tablet technology potentially leapfrogging Apple products.
  • Innovation in the handheld sector is stymied as inventors and small companies fear a suit from one of the big players.
  • Companies increasingly build rings of patent and copyright protection around their offerings, discouraging technology transfer and creating unique, differentiated offerings.
  • Copyright law undergoes a shift toward “trade dress” – the unique look and feel in a range of product areas including automobiles, appliances, furnishings, dress, and consumer products.
  • “Apple Island” – where the “i-market” segment increasingly becomes handcuffed to the technology.
  • Design trends upward as the base of market differentiation.
  • More mergers in the handheld and tablet marketplace as large competitors snap up smaller players with unique features.
  • A market where 3-4 companies (Apple, Google, Microsoft, one unknown) are left standing by the end of the decade.
  • A one-year delay in enforcing an injunction enables Samsung to turn around its product line and introduce new devices late in 2013.
  • Apple’s share price goes over $800.
  • Agreement on the GATT is delayed further by this new emphasis in intellectual property protection, hamstringing WTO talks on trade and subsidies.