Tuesday 11 February, 2014

The PR Blunder of a Lifetime – Apple Ordered to Effectively Apologize to Samsung

A UK judge has ordered Apple to publish a statement saying that Samsung in fact didn’t copy its iPad design with its own Galaxy Tab tablets. Apple must publish this statement on its UK website and in several key British newspapers. This ruling follows an earlier ruling that Samsung did not violate Apple’s patent.

High court judge Colin Burss handed down this odd ruling after stating that Galaxy did not copy the iPad. In his own words, Galaxy is ‘not as cool’ as iPad. Furthermore, the tablets ‘do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design.’

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab ‘Not as Cool’

It’s a strange ruling that has lots of people scratching their heads. The result of the ruling is that Samsung gets some great advertising (in spite of being ‘not as cool’) and Apple looks stupid in public. It could be a serious PR blow to Apple, whose lawyers expected they’d lose the case, but not that they’d have to issue a public statement.

Apple’s lawyer Richard Hacon has publicly called the ruling unfair. Because of the ruling, Apple has to essentially advertise Samsung’s tablet for them. This is not only embarrassing for the company but as Hacon notes, no company likes to refer people to its competitors.

Apple has made a number of public statements implying strongly that Samsung copied its design. It referred to the company as the ‘copyist’ and accused them of purposely stealing the design for their own similar devices. It even went so far as to try to block the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets.

Hard to Say You’re Sorry

Apple has to put its statement on its UK website for at least six months. It will place its ad in the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Financial Times and other major magazines and newspapers. The judge, however, didn’t specify exactly what the statement must say. It has to mention the court date and ‘correct the damaging impression,’ but that leaves Apple lots of leeway.

For example, Apple can use ambiguous wording, or put a simple link to court documents on their site. They can make it as understated as they’d like to as long as they mention the key points that are required. Who knows? Its marketing department may be working right now to find a way to spin the ad and use it to its advantage. Lots of companies have turned PR disasters like this into advertising opportunities.

Apple’s legal team has put in an appeal for the ruling, stating the above reason, that it means essentially doing Samsung’s advertising. However, at the time of writing, the ruling still stands.

Bob Steele

Bob Steele is an entrepreneur, software developer, marketer, and author living in the Denver metropolitan area. He’s an avid outdoorsman who loves skiing, hiking, fishing, boating, and just plain having fun. His interests include games, space, technology, physics, cooking (well eating actually), economics, business, internationalism, and team sports. With over thirty years of professional consulting experience, Bob has been exposed to many diverse business models and has gained a sensible approach to life. Bob’s company, WaveCentric is focused on commerce, marketing, and entertainment related products.

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