Apple vs. Samsung trial
what it means, what it doesn’t mean
After months of court battles and countless hours of hearing both sides’ arguments the trial and Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Samsung was indeed infringing on all but one of Apple’s asserted patents, while Apple was found innocent of violating any of the Korean technology giant’s properties. Furthermore Apple was awarded nearly $1.05 billion dollars in damages. We could argue whether this decision was justified or not forever the fact remains that this ruling found it’s basis in serious analysis of corporate materials from both parties. No one knew what the outcome would be before it was announced, so lets look at the contexts which led to the setting of this historic judicial precedent:
The state of the mobile phone industry landscape before the introduction of the iPhone was radically different from what it is today. The below photo of Steve Jobs at a 2007 presentation perhaps explains it best It clearly outlines the then industry leaders, and my how have the times changed. None of the phones pictured bore any resemblance to the iPhone, and most importantly Samsung wasn’t a player among the top mobile phone giants of the day. In fact its conspicuously absent.
Here’s a link that outlines Samsung’s 2006 mobile technology offerings: http://www.mobiletechreview.com/Samsung-phone-reviews.htm
There was a conventional status quo up until January 7, 2007. The iPhone was revealed to the world. The reaction from industry leaders at the time bleak: Insiders, columnists, and manufacturers alike said no way. No way a thing like that would survive in the line run. It was accepted that smartphones needed keyboards – otherwise users wouldn’t be able to write through them and complete tasks efficiently. Then a funny thing happened. A year after the iPhone debuted, several aesthetically and structurally similar phones surfaced. It seemed that though they publicly downplayed the iPhone’s multi-touch screen functionality and no physical button mentality companies like Samsung were quietly releasing their own answers to Apple’s curious new smartphone.
In 2010 when the Samsung Galaxy S came out Apple approached Samsung with a proposal: Pay licensing fees to utilize the patents they needed to become Apple’s most serious brand competitor, or stop making devices that infringed on these same patents. Samsung declined and kept on with business as usual. After Apple led the tablet revolution they created a similar answer in the same vein as well. Flash forward to today and we see what came of these decisions.
Apple’s patent trial versus Samsung last more than a month, during which time both sides presented veritable mountains of text evidence, photos, executive testimony, and testimony from members of both company’s mobile device design teams. In fact there was so much evidence given by both sides that to overview it in full I’d need to publish a book instead of a blog post.
Apple’s stance on the issue:
Apple’s asserted that it provided scores of empirical evidence to support their claim that Samsung deliberately copied their designs, demanded that the asian technology behemoth cease and desist immediately, and claimed they were due financial compensation for capital damages suffered due to Samsung’s iPhone and iPad copycat products unfairly infringing on their market shares in both corridors.
Samsung’s stance on the issue:
Samsung’s argument on this patent issue was that it was easily possible to prove that there was nothing innovative enough about the iPhone and iPad designs to warrant patent based intellectual and material ownership. Samsung asserted that similar device designs existed long before either Apple’s smartphone or its tablet were unveiled, and hence Apple had no grounds to claim patent infringement on their products.
What the Judge’s decision means for Apple and Samsung:
- Infringement on patent ’381 “rubber-banding” patent: Yes for all devices.
- Infringement on patent ’915 “pinch-to-zoom” patent: Yes for all devices except for Intercept and Replenish smartphones.
- Infringement on patent ’163 “tap-to-zoom” patent: Yes for Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Exhibit 4G, Fascinate, Ace, Prevail, Galaxy S, Galaxy S 4G, S II AT&T, i9100, S II T-Mobile, Galaxy Tab, Tab 10.1, Infuse 4G, Mesmerize and Replenish. No for Captivate, Continuum, Gem, Indulge, Intercept, Nexus S 4G, Transform, and Vibrant.
- Infringement on patent D’667 iPhone design patent: Yes for SEC’s Fascinate, Galaxy S, Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S II for AT&T, Galaxy S II i9100, Galaxy S II for T-Mobile, Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, Skyrocket, Showcase, Infuse 4G, Mesmerize and Vibrant. No for Ace. Yes for STA’s Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S II for T-Mobile, Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, Skyrocket, Showcase, Infuse 4G, Mesmerize, and Vibrant.
- Infringement on patent D’087 iPhone design patent: Yes for SEC’s S i9000, Galaxy S 4G, and Vibrant. No for Galaxy S II ATT, S II i9100, Epic 4G Touch, Skyrocket and Infuse 4G. Yes for STA’s S 4G and Vibrant only.
- Infringement on patent D’305 iPhone home screen design patent: Yes for SEC’s Captivate, Continuum, Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Fascinate, Galaxy S i9000, Galaxy S 4G, Showcase, Gem, Indulge, Infuse 4G, Mesmerize and Vibrant. Yes for STA’s Captivate, Continuum, Chrarge, Epic 4G, Fascinate, Galaxy S 4G, Gem, Indulge, Infuse 4G, Mesmerize and Vibrant.
- Infringement on patent D’889 iPad design patent: No for all devices.
What the Judge’s decision doesn’t mean:
This decision isn’t a strike that’s going to kill device design and technology innovation. Nor was it made to influence the two company’s competitive market positions against one another. In fact, though this ruling doesn’t bhee well in the short term, in the long term its more likely to serve as warning to tech manufacturers to innovate rather than emulate, to come up with unique ideas or at least not become complacent in following design and device structure precedents set before them too lazily.
This wasn’t easy decision for the court to make. Modern patent law is a very grey and hazy area and Judge Lucy Koh had to make tough decisions based on copyright infringements claims, supporting evidence for and against, and she had to do so without being intimidated or influenced by the media circus and informational spin both Samsung and Apple were guilty of before and during the trial itself.
In the end we’ll leave the decision up to you. The photo below shows the iPhone on the right (release circa 2007), and the Samsung Galaxy S (released circa 2010). Do they look like sufficiently differently designed devices to you?
Artyom Diogtev, Head of Social Media
Edited by Max Rabinovitch, Creative Director