Posts tagged war

Patent Lawsuit: Apple, Samsung and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

Apple vs. Samsung in a Patent War

CNET News 1: “Apple vs. Samsung: 50 suits, 10 countries – and counting”

CNET News 2: “Samsung, Apple CEOs meet without coming to agreement?”

Meritz Investment Bank (Korean): PDF File

A hostile patent litigation between Apple and Samsung started ever since Apple accused Samsung of copying its designs for smartphones and tablet PCs. In response, Samsung dodged back with patent lawsuits concerning the mobile technology. According to CNET News, this litigation chaos augmented into 50 lawsuits against each other in 10 different countries. Apple became wary of Samsung’s ever-increasing market share of the smartphones and tablet PCs.

A smartphone or a tablet PC market can be said to be an oligopoly. There is only a handful of firms offering the product: Apple, Samsung, HTC, Sony, and so on. It is definitely different from a PC components market where there are lots of firms providing the identical product.

As Samsung’s market power is increasing in both the smartphone and the tablet PC market, Apple has opened a Pandora’s Box by filing a lawsuit against Samsung, as it was mentioned above. This has triggered the problem of Prisoner’s Dilemma, of which the ‘players’ in a ‘game’ are forced to choose the option that makes both of them worse off. In this case, the ‘players’ are Apple and Samsung, and the ‘game’ they are playing is the chicken game of patent litigations.

Table based on Game Theory: Prisoner’s Dilemma

This table illustrates the situation that Apple and Samsung is facing. According to the table, whatever the opponent chooses to do, the best option for a player is to file a lawsuit against the opponent. For example, for Samsung, it is the best option for it to file a lawsuit against Apple because the best-case scenario is that it will possibly kick Apple out of the market. The worst-case scenario is that both Samsung and Apple will possibly be kicked out of the market. However, this case is better than Samsung being kicked out of the market while Apple stays in the market with the market gain, in the point of view of Samsung. The reason behind choosing to file a lawsuit is the same for Apple.

As a result, they reach a Nash equilibrium, in which both of them file a lawsuit against each other, making them worse off. The patent lawsuit can be seen as a deadweight loss that is ‘wasted’ in a litigious process. Some people argue that the only people gaining from this situation are the lawyers. Consumers are the ultimate victims of this patent war because the ligation burdens are passed through higher prices for the products Apple and Samsung produce.

However, it should be noted that this ‘game’ of patent lawsuits is repeated numerously, 50 lawsuits as it was mentioned. Meritz Investment Bank’s analyst Lee Secheol anticipated in April that Apple and Samsung would stop and reconcile with each other as the ‘game’ is repeated. He anticipated that both firms would realize that this situation is making them worse off and that they would sit down at the negotiating table.

According to CNET News, CEOs of Apple and Samsung did have a meeting. However, they have never came up with an agreement. The fact that they had a meeting to reconcile showed that both of them realized they were in a situation of prisoner’s dilemma. However, their disagreement over withdrawing from a patent war also showed that this issue has become somewhat emotional, which makes it beyond the problem of prisoner’s dilemma.

Consumers should realize that this is not only doing harm to both the companies but also doing harm to themselves. This patent war will inevitably lead to an increase in the prices of products that Apple and Samsung produce and will significantly limit the number of choices that consumers can make if one of them are kicked out of the market as a result of a lawsuit. Also, the products they purchase may be limited in functions or features due to the patent constraints.

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U.S. vs. China: Currency and Trade Dispute

Historically, China used the fixed exchange rate for their currency Yuan over almost 50 years. Of course, China has discontinued its inflexible practice from the start of July of 2005. Instead of the fixed exchange rate, they employed a flexible exchange rate system. However, it wasn’t 100% flexible or floating because of the Chinese government’s intervention in the currency exchange market. What the government would do is that they would use their reserves of currencies to ‘manipulate’ or manage the currency exchange rate to be at a certain level. Exchange rate is a ratio between the value of two currencies and it is a method to translate the value of one currency into another.

China armed with undervalued currency and its huge industrial factories and infrastructures, it gains enormous amount of surplus in current account against United States. The surplus in current account means that the country is exporting more than it is importing. Therefore, China is gaining lots of US dollars from the trade. If you look this at the American point of view, US is losing in terms of current account against China. US is importing more than it is exporting. The imbalance in the current account in both cases (surplus and deficit) could create some problems. For deficit in current account, the country will experience in large amounts of payments losing to the foreign country. So US will be losing lots of its payments and interests to China. For surplus in current account, it is considered ‘desirable’ compared to the deficit in current account, however, it could mean that the country is not experiencing the highest possible standards of living. Also, it could be seen as economy’s under-performing. Also, it exerts pressure on the exchange rate to appreciate the currency of the country.

As you could see, the fixed exchange rate could cause a problem of shortage in the currency supply. This would generally push the exchange rate upwards, but the fixed rate block this. Therefore, the shortage in the supply of the currency occurs.

What would have happen if the Yuan got stronger and appreciated? It would decrease the exports of China dramatically. Conversely, it would increase the imported goods to China. This will ‘fix’ the imbalance and lower the surplus in current account against United States. In the point of view of Americans, this will increase their exports to China and decrease the imports due to increase in the price. This would be beneficial for both countries’ balance of payment, however, China refuses to appreciate their currency. It is because the weak Yuan stimulates exports to US and this is the key engine for China’s enormous economic growth. They think that the surplus in the current account is a good thing, however, as it was mentioned there are problems with it also.

In conclusion, China’s currency policy is creating an imbalance in the trade between United States and China. Also, it is creating the imbalance in the balance of payment. It would be idealistic if China gave up their under-evaluation policy. However, it will increase the unemployment rate in China as the exports decrease and the number of workplaces in China decreases. Conversely, this will be beneficial for United States for it will lower the unemployment rate by the increase in exports and increase in the number of workplaces.

Resources:

Council of Foreign Relations – Confronting the China-US Economic Imbalance

Wikipedia – Fixed Exchange Rate

Graph from Triple AAA Reading – Fixed Exchange Rate

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