Samsung / Apple verdict: The aftermath

Samsung / Apple verdict: The aftermath

Summary: The jury handed a near unanimous victory to Apple in the patent infringement case against Samsung that was decided today. The verdict has ramifications for Apple, Samsung, and all Android device makers.

Legal justice

In the patent infringement trial between Samsung and Apple, the jury today handed a stunning victory to Apple. The jury found that Samsung had not only infringed on Apple's design and UI innovations, but had done so "wilfully". The near unanimous decision in Apple's favor has far-reaching ramifications for the Android smartphone world.

Apple had claimed in court that Samsung had copied its design with most of its Android product line, both smartphones and tablets. It added that Samsung had also infringed on particular UI elements that made the Samsung products better, thus impacting Apple's iPhone/iPad sales. The jury agreed with Apple and handed it a $1.05 billion award for damages.

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It's not likely but the finding that Samsung had wilfully copied Apple's products means the judge has the option to increase the damages up to triple the amount awarded by the jury. That would almost certainly be appealed by Samsung if that happened. Of course, the verdict is going to be appealed anyway.

I wasn't in the courtroom for the trial so I can't comment on the rightness nor wrongness of this decision. I have previously made my position clear that I don't believe "features" should qualify for patents, but that's not the issue here. The patent system, which I believe is broken, is what it is and we have to live with it. That makes Samsung a bad guy now that this verdict has been delivered in court.

CNET has a breakdown on the patents ruled to be wilfully infringed by Samsung. They basically span two areas: hardware design and UI features. The hardware infringement ruling makes it clear the jury found that most of Samsung's smartphone and tablet line was copied from Apple's.

I personally would never mistake a Samsung phone or tablet for an iPhone or iPad, but that's not the issue. The jury found that they are sufficently alike to cause harm to Apple, so that's the way it is. I can state that of all the Android devices I have used/seen that Samsung's are more alike those of Apple's than other companies. 

It may not be a coincidence that Android devices that are the most like Apple's are also the most successful in the market. Samsung sells far more phones and tablets than other OEMs making Android devices, and perhaps it validates Apple's design. Other vendors selling devices much different in design than Apple's aren't doing so well, so maybe there's a case to be made for what sells and what doesn't.

The hardware design ruling only affects Samsung but the UI feature patent infringement may be applicable to all of Android. As CNET points out, the three major UI patents ruled to be infringed are:

'381 patent

  • rubber band effect when scrolling to bottom of page
  • dragging documents
  • pinch/zoom
  • twist/rotate

'915 patent

  • Distinguishing between a single-touch scroll and a multi-touch action (pinch/zoom)

'163 patent

  • Double-tap the screen to zoom in or center a web page, photo, etc.

These UI features are present all through Android, so either Google must fight these separately or get rid of them in future versions. That would make the OS less appealing, frankly, as these elements are ones I use frequently. The fact that they have now been ruled by a US court to "belong" to iOS is a big blow to Android. It's likely this will have to be addressed, and soon.

Samsung is going to have to change its phone and tablet designs going forward, or risk further legal action. Apple now has a major ruling in its pocket so its likely going to get even more aggressive in the future. Samsung now has that "wilfull copier" label which won't do it any favors in other courtrooms.

Major design changes will be a risk to Samsung's future products. As mentioned earlier, few Android devices have been successful compared to the Galaxy line of products, so deviation will be risky. Samsung really has no choice but to make a significant change if it wants to stay out of court.

Even if Samsung changes its hardware design, those Android UI features that have been ruled infringing must go. That puts Samsung at the mercy of Google to make those changes in a timely fashion, and replace them with equally compelling functionality.

If I was an executive at Samsung I would be looking at Windows Phone for future products. Samsung is already on board with Windows 8 going forward, so maybe it's time to switch to Windows Phone. Apple has a deal with Microsoft for Windows Phone, so OEMs using that platform are without risk from Apple's legal team. Well, as long as they don't copy Apple's phones.

A switch to the Windows Phone platform would not be without risk to Samsung, but the company has to change its hardware anyway. It's worth a trip from Korea to Redmond to pursue.

Topics: Apple, Android, iOS, Legal, Patents, Samsung

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  • Oh, By The Way ...

    ... it appears the jury awarded damages on some charges where they also found Samsung DIDN’T infringe.

    Which makes you wonder how seriously they took the whole process...
    • quite seriously

      they've done what was their sponsoring party ;)
    • Technical errors were corrected shortly

      So no issues here.
    • Even more

      They didn't needed instructions!

      It was tech news that jury instructions are BIG and COMPLEX, and verdict charts too. So they just finish it in record time without help of instructions. :D

      Great! (Though jury have legal right to do just that)
    • It get worse, apparently the juries skipped prior art to speed things up

      and among other things.

      '"It didn't dawn on us [that we agreed that Samsung had infringed] on the first day," Ilagan said. "We were debating heavily, especially about the patents on bounce back and pinch-to-zoom. Apple said they owned patents, but we were debating about the prior art [about the same technology that Samsung said existed before the iPhone debuted]. [Velvin Hogan] was jury foreman. He had experience. He owned patents himself. In the beginning the debate was heated, but it was still civil. Hogan holds patents, so he took us through his experience. After that it was easier. After we debated that first patent -- what was prior art --because we had a hard time believing there was no prior art, that there wasn't something out there before Apple.'

      Then it comes the money-quote:

      "In fact we skipped that one," Ilagan continued, "so we could go on faster. It was bogging us down."
      • Venue

        I don't understand why Samsung didn't ask for a change of venue. They might as well have held the trial in the offices of Apple. Apple doesn't seem to be satisfied with being the greediest company in the world. Paying their cult members little. And giving back nothing to society.
  • Apple pained on Samsung sales

    The sales of Apple and greed does not decrease as it jacks up prices at will for their devices and MONOPOLY is a game and not practice. APPLE should refrain from making allegations when it cannot stop SAMSUNG run. World of tablets is big space and each maker has his choices and APPLE cant dictate terms , it can do in USA and not everywhere.
  • Okay for now but what does it mean?

    Great. Okay. So????
    What does this really mean for the remainder of the devices especially those that have far surpassed any iPhone? What will Judge Kol change to the findings?

    Appeal coming? Likely. There are grounds for it.
    UI updates if any of these remain on the market? Maybe.

    Bigger question in my mind is
    1. the potential impact on the next Apple Samsung case
    2. how does this play with the rulings from other countries
    3. will Apple even realistically license anything

    For those who are saying MS!!! This has the potential too affect their upcoming devices too.
    • Shame about seclusion...

      It is a shame the jury can't watch the news...

      The UK verdict "Samsung didn't copy, they aren't cool enough." And Apple having to take press advertisements to say that Samsung didn't copy.

      And the South Korean verdict "both sides infringed", and they took away Apple's and Samsung's toys and sent them to bed without supper.

      To be honest, I think the SK verdict was the best result. Both sides are like bickering children. If they both get their hands slapped (their devices banned), maybe they will think twice.

      It is a shame the US Jury didn't come to a similar decision. If a market the size of America stood up to both sides and told them to stop squabbling like children and banned both sides products from sales, until they came to an agreement, it might make the whole thing more sensible.

      As it is, all this verdict means is rich lawyers and more expensive Apple and Samsung products, as they try and recoup the money wasted on legal costs.
    • A pyrrhic victory

      They did win ( at least in that jurisdiciton) and got a billion dollars. However, they are now stuck with their antiquated grid of dead icons UI, that has been looking old for some time. If they continue to push this across the other Andorid phone makers then only the iPhone will be able to look clunky and retro.

      Now if there was a better more powerful OS, protected from Apple's predatory patent pouncing that offered a designed, modern UI, I think Android makers woudl be seriously looking at switching. Wait a minute - there is...
      • yea and that is Windows Phone 8

  • Samsung / Apple verdict: The aftermath

    when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. but in apple's case: when the going gets tough, litigate! am wondering how long will this apple run lasts. motorola had a short run with razr, and rim with blackberry. those two were the darling of wall street and believed to dislodge nokia as the top dog. also, am wondering how many type of telephone handset can a company design before their product become stale.
    • Short run...

      Apple already lost in the UK (Samsung didn't copy, Samsung aren't cool enough, and Apple had to take out press advertisements to that effect in major papers).

      And they drew in South Korea, where both sides (old) products have been banned.
  • No excuses about patent validity

    Patent is important for innovation and it can be ridiculous at times. But that's the way the world works, nothing is perfect.

    Having said that, everybody in the tech industry knows that Google's products and nothing but pirated or copied or open-sourced. The oracle-google trial is an example, even though oracle didn't win, everybody knows that google ripped-off java design.

    Its time to dump google and its 'eco-system'
    • Samsung / Apple verdict: The aftermath

      how about the apple eco-system, are they original works or derivatives as most of hardware/software in the present eco-system.
    • No Google did not ripped off Java "design"

      Sun and Oracle gave it to the world FREELY.

      Go look for Open JDK 7 .....
    • “Patent is important for innovation ...”

      Do you have any actual evidence to back up that claim?
    • Patents

      What is it about telephones that make companies greedy and crazy - AT&T owned the store for years - you couldn't even plug a phone up that was made by anyone else. Television didn't seem to have these issues. Blackberries always had round edges - and they existed years before iphones. Spoiled children all.
    • Mobile = new

      My problem is, a lot of the "patents" in the smartphone arena (as opposed to mobile phones) is basically re-inventing the wheel and adding the word "mobile" on the end.

      Many of the patents I've seen (not just from Apple), are things that we have been doing for decades in the desktop and mainframe worlds, the patent "owners" seem to take a generic principal, slap the word "mobile" or "mobile device" somewhere in the text and et voila! a new patent is born.

      At least on this side of the Atlantic the courts and patent offices are still saying patenting ideas and software algorithms is bogus.
  • Clearly the jury had a pro Apple bias

    This IS a disaster for the consumer.

    The media now needs to treat Apple like the evil monopolist that they are. They now have the blessing of the legal system to use their cash pile to sue all competitors into submission.

    Our hopelessly broken patent system needs to be sorted out and soon.