Mythbusting: Samsung and the $1bn Fine


Back in 2012, a court adjudicated that Samsung had to pay Apple a USD 1 billion fine because of a mutual patent infringement, which is legal jargon for they forgot to pay for something they were using—or at least it’s round about that.

Samsung had been using patented features of Apple’s iPhone and iPad in several of its products without paying adequate compensation, which a jury originally ordered would cost Samsung a whopping USD 1 billion.

There was a rumour though, after the fine was ordered to be paid, that Samsung paid Apple the USD 1 billion fine, which is numerically written as USD 1,000,000,000, in nickels.

A nickel is the American equivalent of the 5 pence piece. Supposedly therefore holds the rumour. So that’s 20,000,000,000 nickels in USD 1 billion, or 20 billion nickels.

It’s quite simply an absurd amount, yet during the time everyone on social media was sharing stories about Samsung paying their fine in nickels.

Here’s why it’s simply impossible:

  1. Samsung contested the fine with an appeal. Thereby preventing the need for it to pay the fine, it was later revised down when a judge declared that USD 400 million was miscalculated and the complaint by Apple was sent back to the courts. No fine of USD 1 billion was paid.
  2. Even had the fine have stood, 20 billion nickels do not exist. It is estimated that Samsung would have had to collect every single nickel minted in the seventy years before the court case, just to have had enough. Around 1 billion nickels were minted in 2011, which sounds like a huge amount. Yet it is estimated that a similar amount fell from circulation over time. It is estimated that Samsung would simply need every nickel ever to be able to accomplish this feat.
  3. There’s a logistical problem, even if one can deny the first and second problem with this rumour. Every nickel weighs 5 grams, which means that somewhere both Samsung and Apple would need to be able to store 80 billion grams of nickels.
  4. Besides the logistical improbability of a single business being able to store 80 billion grams of coinage in its vaults, there is the slight problem of transportation. In order for Samsung to have delivered these nickels to Apple, it would need to order 2,755 eighteen-wheeler trucks that could each carry 29038112.5 grams, that’s 29.03 metric ton. The astronomical cost of this is incredibly improbable, Samsung probably just paid with a bank transfer.

So there you have it, above are the 4 reasons why it’s completely improbable (and impossible) that Samsung would ever have paid Apple its USD 1 billion fine in nickels.