Apple founder Steve Jobs famously questioned the value of market research:
A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.
Business Week Online, 1988.
We built [the Mac] for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research.
While this philosophy served Apple well in creating product categories such as the Mac and iPhone, the same cannot be said for Apple’s attempts to enforce its intellectual property rights.
Apple sued Motorola for infringing Apple’s patents on specific features used in cell phones and tablets, seeking tens of millions of dollars as a reasonable royalty for the unauthorized use of the patented features based on the opinion of Apple’s damage expert. However, the trial judge, Richard Posner (pictured to the left – who blogs by the way), recently excluded these opinions as unreliable based largely upon the failure of the expert to properly investigate consumer preferences. (Judge Posner’s Opinion dated May 22, 2012.)
While success in the markets in which Apple competes may not require asking consumers what they want, success in the courtroom, in particular the recovery of money damages for lost royalties on infringing sales, very much hinges on evidence that these questions were asked.
So how did Judge Posner and other jurists like him get so far off the Jobs path?