Smartphone Wars: Part II

On August 24th, Apple won decisively in Apple v. Samsung. The jury awarded Apple $1.04 billion for infringing Apple’s intellectual property. This was less than the $2.5 billion that Apple requested, but the jury found that Apple wasn’t infringing any of Samsung’s patents. Of the many patents that were disputed, the judgment turned on three patents and Apple’s trade dress argument. The pertinent features were the following: (i) bounce-back effect; (ii) pinch-to-zoom feature; and (iii) tap-to-zoom feature.

This is not the end of the story, of course. As the case developed in the United States, Apple and Samsung were, and continue to be, in a legal battle all over the world. Seoul Central District Court compromised and ruled that Samsung didn’t copy the look and feel of Apple. It further ruled that Apple had infringed upon some of Samsung’s wireless technology, while Samsung had violated Apple’s bounce-back effect. The result was a light slap on the wrist. Both companies had to pay a minimal amount in damages and had some of their older devices banned. More recently on September 21, 2012, a German court ruled that Samsung’s products didn’t violate Apple’s patents.

The discrepancy between the federal jury decision and those of other international courts brings into question whether juries are equipped to handle these types of technical cases. The jury instruction was reportedly over 100 pages, but the jury was able to deliberate after only 3 days. Of course, patents are not the only technical subject where the jury has a say, and there may have been other factors that led to these differing opinions, such as having a home court advantage.

Regardless, Apple and Samsung plan to continue the case in the US. Apple reportedly has been seeking about $700 million in additional damages and a permanent injunction preventing the sale of several of Samsung’s products, while Samsung plans to appeal the verdict and may include a patent infringement claim for violation of Samsung’s patents in LTE technology. LTE is a technology that provides faster connectivity than the standard 3G technology included in the previous generations of iPhones and is included in the new iPhone 5.

Stakes are very high for both companies as they continue their legal battle. There are many differing arguments as to whether patents on software and the magnitude of Apple’s award really promote innovation and new inventions. However, it is important to note that most of the claims were directed towards Samsung’s implementation of Android and Google has already responded to the lawsuit by making changes like implementing a new way to integrate pinch-to-zoom in its latest software.

Furthermore, it likely gives a window of opportunity for Microsoft and Nokia, which increases consumers’ choices. Nokia has opted to stop the development of its own software and decided to bet its future on Microsoft’s new Windows 8 platform. Microsoft’s operating system features a completely different interface and Nokia’s Lumia phones sport a distinct look. While Microsoft has had trouble gaining traction, this controversy could arguably help Nokia and Microsoft’s push to be more main stream.

The mobile market is one of the fastest growing areas in technology. Despite the fact that software patents are controversial and the boundaries are not fully defined, with more companies trying to tap the growing market, consumers will see a lot of new options in the market.


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