NYT: Steve Jobs was a criminal. Vanity Fair: Samsung is a liar.


Samsun’s Lee Kun-hee and Apple’s Steve Jobs. From Vanity Fair.

FORTUNE — Ruthless — perhaps criminal — business tactics are the rule not the exception at Apple (AAPL) and Samsung.

That’s the take-home message from a pair of stories being widely re-tweeted this weekend, one from the New York Times, the other from Vanity Fair.

According to James Stewart, who won a Pulitzer in 1988 for a series about insider trading, Steve Jobs ought to have died in jail. According to Kurt Eichenwald, two-time Polk winner and 2000 Pulitzer finalist for an investigation of medical clinical trials, Samsung should have been shut down years ago.

A pair of appetizers:

If Steve Jobs were alive today, should he be in jail? That’s the provocative question being debated in antitrust circles in the wake of revelations that Mr. Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, who is deeply revered in Silicon Valley, was the driving force in a conspiracy to prevent competitors from poaching employees… Mr. Jobs “was a walking antitrust violation,” said Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and an expert in antitrust law. “I’m simply astounded by the risks he seemed willing to take.” — New York Times: Steve Jobs Defied Convention, and Perhaps the Law.

According to various court records and people who have worked with Samsung, ignoring competitors’ patents is not uncommon for the Korean company. And once it’s caught it launches into the same sort of tactics used in the Apple case: countersue, delay, lose, delay, appeal, and then, when defeat is approaching, settle. “They never met a patent they didn’t think they might like to use, no matter who it belongs to,” says Sam Baxter, a patent lawyer who once handled a case for Samsung. “I represented [the Swedish telecommunications company] Ericsson, and they couldn’t lie if their lives depended on it, and I represented Samsung and they couldn’t tell the truth if their lives depended on it.” — Vanity Fair: The Great Smartphone War.

Each piece is hatchet job as my dictionary defines it — a vicious attack with a sharp weapon. And each might be considered libelous, except that Eichenwald’s reporting is based almost entirely on court documents, and Stewart has the advantage that it’s not easy to libel the dead.

Eichenwald’s piece is a must read; he’s dug up fresh details that I’ve never read before. Stewart’s story struck me as a sloppy rehash with an axe to grind. Your mileage may vary.

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