GaS news — what happened next: August 2013

Continuing our look back at later developments to stories we brought you on Geeks Are Sexy this year, we turn our attention to August. The Obama administration vetoed a ruling by the International Trade Commission (a US agency) that would have banned imports of iPhone and iPad models alleged to breach Samsung patents. Such a veto is extremely rare. In October an ITC import ban of some older Samsung products alleged to breach Apple patents went through without presidential veto.

Patent law experts generally concluded the specifics of the two cases were different enough that it was reasonable to veto one and not the other. That wasn’t enough to satisfy Samsung, which implied the government was deliberately favoring a US company against a foreign competitor. It also launched legal action against the ITC over a third case, in which it refused to impose an import ban on Apple.

A British local authority issued a demolition order on a “Hobbit”-style house built for $23,000 using only local natural materials such as straw and lime plaster and a grass roof. The couple who built it did so without a planning permit, taking somewhat literally the idea that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. The pair have since filed an appeal against the demolition order and formally applied for retrospective planning permission. Those processes are still ongoing and the couple are preparing to spend Christmas in their self-built home.

A class action suit accused Microsoft of intentionally delaying a decision to writedown the value of its stock of unsold Surface tablets by $900 million. The suit claims that Microsoft knew in March that the tablets were worth less than its accounts stated (because they’d either have to be sold off cheap or might never be sold) but didn’t include this in the accounts for the January-March quarter, instead waiting until the April-June report. When that report came out, the suit claims the company’s market valuation dropped by $34 billion. The case has not been settled and is still ongoing: in November Microsoft was granted its request to have the case transferred from Massachusetts (home of Microsoft’s accounting division) to its home state of Washington.

Nintendo announced the 2DS, a handheld console designed for younger and casual players. It had much the same specs and features as the 3DS but without the three-dimensional view. Unlike previous DS models, it didn’t have a hinge, making it fairly bulky to carry around. When the device arrived, reviewers generally concluded that it was a good budget device with a hideously ugly design. Although originally retailing at $129.99 and £109.99, retailers on both sides of the Atlantic found they got a major sales boost when they reduced it to the psychologically-appealing $99 and £99 respectively.

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