Could Samsung’s Loss Be a Win in Disguise?

Generally, we PR professionals expect the loss of a major lawsuit to prove damaging for a company’s reputation and, consequently, its sales. Yet Samsung‘s recent billion-dollar loss to Apple in a patent infringement trial seems to have had the opposite effect.

Since a jury found Samsung guilty of copying the technology used to create the iPhone and iPad in late August, sales of Samsung’s Galaxy S3 have taken a major leap–the model has even sold out in some locations. It would seem that smartphone and tablet users care less about the ethical questions raised by copyright infringement than the fact that Samsung makes toys that are virtually identical to Apple’s but cost significantly less!

In a telling and amusing blog post, Digithrive’s chief technology officer Enrique Gutierrez recounts conversations he overheard in a coffee shop as customers read about the verdict in the paper. Some typical reactions:

“Guy: ‘Wait, so what they’re saying is, Samsung is the same as Apple?’
Friend: ‘I know, right? Makes me think twice about how much I paid for my MacBook’
Guy: ‘Seriously’

Not 10 minutes later, a husband and wife responding to the same article:

Husband: ‘… Samsung’s iPad is the same as Apple’s iPad, and I paid how much for the Apple one? Honey, I told you they were a ripoff’, after looking up the Samsung tablet on his iPhone.
Wife: ‘Oh wow,’ looking at the screen, ‘… that’s a lot cheaper. Think we can return it?'”

So, while we hesitate to frame the loss of a billion dollar lawsuit as a positive thing, the verdict has proven to be an accidentally successful (albeit extremely expensive) ad campaign for Samsung. Maybe there’s just no better way of proving that “our product is just like theirs, but cheaper” than to have a jury declare it so. Note: we cannot recommend making the loss of major lawsuits into a standard marketing strategy.

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