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Samsung Keeps Up Patent Fight Against Apple

Sep 20, 2012
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Apple and Samsung remain locked in a high stakes patent dispute. Last month, a Silicon Valley jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple more than $1 billion for infringing on its patents for smartphones and tablets. Samsung vowed to fight back, and is doing so, both in court, and with an aggressive new marketing campaign.

NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports that effort is getting mixed reviews.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: Samsung has come out swinging. In its advertising and social media campaign its not mincing words and not conceding anything. Samsung has a history of poking at Apple. And Jim Edwards, a senior editor and advertising expert at Business Insider, believes the new campaign is clever.

JIM EDWARDS: They were obviously aware that Apple's launch of iPhone 5 was going to gather a huge amount of publicity, and so they decided to sort of ride on the back of it in a couple of ways.

KAUFMAN: If you go to YouTube to search for a video of Apples iPhone 5, the first thing that pops up is a sponsored ad from Samsung.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAMSUNG AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Hey, man.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Oh, hey.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: How's it going?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Saved you a spot...

KAUFMAN: In this video, a crowd of people is standing in line outside an Apple store, where one young man is showing off his new phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAMSUNG AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Is that a Samsung?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That's a new Samsung. It is.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This one's 4G.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah. We've had that for a while. And we can share videos instantly. You can watch a video while you are sending an email.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, we're going to get that for sure. Maybe not this time, but the next time, right?

KAUFMAN: The South Korean electronics maker is taking it to Apple in full-page print ads, too. A New York Times ad shows a side-by-side comparison of selected features on the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy. The copy reads: It doesn't take a genius - an apparent reference to Apple's in-store tech support called the Genius Bar.

Samsung's officials have indicated they weren't trying to dis Apple users, but rather, quote, "educate consumers" about who had the most innovative phones.

But Jim Edwards of Business Insider says head-to-head comparisons can be risky.

EDWARDS: And Apple is known for having consumers who are huge advocates of the brand. So the risk here is that Samsung provokes this vast army of Apple fans into criticizing Samsung.

KAUFMAN: Not surprisingly, some already have, making parodies of Samsung's print ads and touting Apple products on Samsung's Facebook page. In fact, Jonathan Taplin of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School is a bit disdainful of Samsung's efforts.

JONATHAN TAPLIN: I think it's kind of a lame attempt.

KAUFMAN: He says Samsungs ads seem to imply that Apple buyers are stupid.

TAPLIN: You're not smart to buy an iPhone. You can buy - get something better for a lower price.

KAUFMAN: Of course, Apple buyers have never seemed overly concerned about price. Apple has sold more smartphones in the U.S. than any other single company. Samsung is number two.

The lawsuit and the huge verdict against Samsung for patent infringement thrust the company into the spotlight. And Peter Fader, a marketing expert at the Wharton School, says Samsung should exploit that. What might his ad copy say?

PETER FADER: Come learn what it is that Apple was so afraid of. Check out our rounded corners. Play to the case, don't run away from it.

KAUFMAN: Fader himself has Samsung's new Galaxy smartphone. He bought it this summer, and no one paid much attention. But after the legal battle between Apple and Samsung became front page news, people starting asking him: Can I please see that?

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.