Nine Random People Might Decide The Future Of Mobile Device Design

After the two sides give their closing arguments in the Apple versus Samsung trial tomorrow, the jury goes into deliberations. The nine person group will be given a shockingly complex worksheet, from which a verdict will be produced. The WSJ is reporting that the worksheet includes obtuse questions like, “What is the dollar amount that Samsung is entitled to receive from Apple for Samsung’s utility patent infringement claims on the ’516 and ’941 patents?,” etc.

Reading through the worksheet, which hypothetically could prove whether Samsung owes Apple $2.5 billion or whether Apple owns Samsung up to $399 million due to patent infringement, makes your brain hurt.

Aside from the patent jargon, what’s particularly brain numbing is that nine randomly chosen people who happen to live around the fabled “Silicon Valley” will be setting a precedent for the future of mobile device design and innovation through their (relatively) uninformed answers.

Ars Technica reports that the jury includes “an electrical engineer who worked in hard drives for over 35 years, a homemaker, a construction worker, a young unemployed man, an insurance agent, an ex-Navy avionics technician, a systems engineer, and a bike shop manager.”

Reuters is reporting that it’s composed of “a store operations manager for a cycling retailer, a systems engineer and a benefits and payroll manager who works with startups” in addition to an “insurance agent, an unemployed video game enthusiast and a project manager for wireless carrier AT&T.”

The gender breakdown is seven men and two women, and, presuming there’s no career overlap, we’ve got  …

1. An electrical engineer

2. A homemaker

3. A construction worker

4.  A young unemployed man who likes video games

5. An insurance agent

6. An ex-Navy avionics technician

7. A store operations manager for a cycling retailer

8. A project manager for wireless carrier AT&T

9. A benefits and payroll manager who works with startups

Sounds like an interesting and lovely bunch, but should they really be the people with the final word on such a complicated situation between two hugely successful and influential high-tech companies?

“I am worried we might have a seriously confused jury here,” presiding Judge Lucy Koh said, concerned. “I have trouble understanding this, and I have spent a little more time with this than they have.” Not to be tech elitist, but we actually cover the space and it’s actually pretty hard to digest for us as well.

If only there were a way we could actually have people who know about patent infringement making important decisions about patent infringement?

But no, that would go against what the American judicial system is all about — Democracy. It’s why we call expert witnesses and don’t require experts to be part of the jury. But you only realize how absolutely risky and ridiculous it is when you feel a stake in how the court decision comes out, or ponder how strange it seems that an insurance agent will have a say on whether the Galaxy Tab 10.1 remains banned in the US.

I mean, I know plenty of insurance agents, and it’s certainly a noble career, but quite honestly — really?

Sure, there are quite a few caveats: The jury’s decision needs to be unanimous, spanning dozens of devices, and there are apparently more than 700 questions on that worksheet. Also, no matter what decision is reached, both companies are expected to appeal.

Still, it’s a lot of power in the hands of randoms: If the jury penalizes Samsung for making their phones and tablets a copy of Apple’s then Samsung will need to find a new look. As will all other myriad Android people who are making iPhone-style phones. If they decide Samsung is okay, it’s open season on copycat devices.

Do we end up with the left side or the right side of that image up there? These nine people could decide.

Image via Cult of Mac