Does the US Apple-Samsung verdict matter in Australia?

Summary:Australia's court case deciding whether Samsung devices infringe on Apple's patents won't be overshadowed by the recently concluded US case, according to lawyers.

Apple's recent win against Samsung in a US court is unlikely to have any major effect on the case currently occurring in Australia, according to legal experts.

Not only is it almost certain that the US decision will be appealed, but the points being argued by Apple are very different in the US and Australia.

Even though the patents that are being argued over look similar — both the US and the Australian court cases are examining Samsung's 3G patent and Apple's edge-bounce patent, for example — this doesn't meant that the result will be the same.

The products being examined are different, the patents filed in Australia are not identical to the patents filed in the US, the claims made on those patents are different and the laws governing the patents are different, according to Watermark Intellectual Asset Management senior associate Mark Summerfield, who also writes the Patentology blog. In addition, although Apple has registered designs in Australia, it hasn't had them examined, he said, which means that design considerations won't come into play as they have in the US.

"The trade dress and design infringement issues which were a big part of the US case are not in play in Australia. The patent issues overlap, but the law, the evidence and the general conduct of the case in Australia is different. The US verdict tells us very little about the likely outcome in Australia, so there is no reason for Samsung to seek settlement," he said.

"Even if Apple tries to raise the US decision as somehow relevant, I expect Justice [Annabelle] Bennett would give such submissions short shrift."

Spruson and Ferguson patent lawyer Lee Pippard agreed that the outcome of the Australian case would not likely be influenced by the US verdict.

"While our laws are generally aligned, there are still enough differences to permit different judgments."

In addition to the variations in the patents and in law between Australia and the US, there are other differences between the US and Australian court systems. For example, the Apple-Samsung verdict was handed down by a jury in the US, while in Australia it will be decided by Justice Annabelle Bennett.

This will likely affect the outcome of the case significantly, as juries do not always have the necessary expertise to be able to reach a technical verdict competently, and, in the case of the US Apple-Samsung verdict, the verdict was reached in a very short time.

"The origins of the jury and the speed with which a decision was made have cast doubt upon the thoroughness of their review," Pippard said.

It only took the jury 21 hours to reach a verdict. The jury foreman, who holds a patent himself, told Reuters that the jury was able to reduce deliberation time because some members had engineering and legal experience, which helped with the complex issues. Often the concern with juries is that they don't have the knowhow to be able to meet the decisions required for cases.

Bennett, on the other hand, who does have experience in the area of patents, would take time on her deliberations and will be hearing more testimony than the jury did in the US case, where Judge Lucy Koh limited testimony per side to 25 hours. The Australian case is set to run until at least May 2013.

"Justice Bennett is an experienced patent lawyer and judge. She also has a science degree. She is hearing weeks of testimony, reading volumes of evidence and taking lessons in the technology," Summerfield said.

"When the time comes, she will not rush to judgment, and she will have to provide detailed reasons for her decision; not just tick some boxes."

However, although Pippard believes that any result in Australia would be respected internationally, Summerfield said that our decision would not matter much in a global sense. He believes that Apple and Samsung will continue to battle it out in courts in various markets across the globe, testing which features it can use and which it needs to design workarounds for, as it makes its products more innovations than imitations.

"They can afford to keep doing this forever," he said.

And given that the US is Apple's home market, with numbers released during the trial showing that Apple has to this point been outselling Samsung there , while Samsung is beating Apple globally on smartphone sales, the most important battles are yet to come.

Topics: Legal, Apple, Australia, Samsung

About

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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