Did Samsung pay $1bn Apple fine in coins?

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nickels

There's a rumour doing the rounds on social media that when Apple won the mutual patent infringement case with Samsung, the South Korean firm tried to pay its $1 billion fine in nickels (five cent pieces). The story goes that the company sent 30 trucks with the money, as a final insult to the firm.

Like all good rumours on social media, this one is absolute rubbish.


There are a couple of good reasons why we know this to be hokum. First, it started out on El Deforma, a fake news site, before being picked up and reported as news.

Second, the fine isn't due yet. The jury initially awarded $1 billion, but a US District Judge threw out $450 million of those damages and ordered another jury to recalculate. They are still deliberating, but the amount is expected to be a fraction of the original fine.

Third, paying $1 billion in nickels would take 20 billion nickels. The Snopes website has pointed out that this is roughly every single nickel in circulation - and that it would require thousands of trucks to deliver it - not 30.

And finally, The Guardian points out that the US Treasury states that no-one in the US has to accept coins or currency as payment, and it's up to the organisation in question to determine whether they will accept cash. So if any trucks turned up with any kind of money, Apple could turn them round and send them back.

Fallen foul

A woman in Hollow Rock discovered this the hard way in August, when she tried to pay $150 fine in pennies. She had been fined for having a mobile home on her property - which she is living in while her home is renovated. She argued that the pennies had been donated by friends and family to help her pay the fine, but it did nothing to convince the city hall staff - who sent her away with the coins.

The rules regarding what is legal tender vary around the world. In the UK, for example, there are strict limits on the sums you can pay with each coin. And these laws will be enforced. Last year a man tried to settle his £800 bill with his accountant in coppers. They were dumped in crates on the man's lawn. The accountant was unimpressed and sued his client for non payment of the debt on the grounds that debts over £10 cannot be paid in coppers. The judge agreed and order the client to pay £1,118.62.

In 2009 an Altrincham man tried to pay a £25 parking fine in coppers, and when it was refused he staged a sit-in at the council offices. He was moved on by the police and agreed to pay the fine properly at a later date.

Even when people have the money accepted, it's questionable as to whether they have secured any kind of victory. In 2008 Bromley Council accepted payment for a £80 parking fine in pennies, from a 63-year-old woman with a point to prove. She took the money to the council in a wheelbarrow and had to wait three quarters of an hour for the money to be counted. There must have been some point during that 45 minutes when she wondered whether she'd have been better off sending a cheque.