Apple v Samsung jury validates American patent system, raises new questions for the future of tech

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
The complex verdict reached by the jury in the Apple vs. Samsung case sends a strong message about a willingness of a jury to enforce U.S. patents against flagrant infringement while at the same time rejecting patent claims that lack strong support, particularly when it comes to prior art.

Utility patents were a minor win

There are various elements of the complex verdict. First, Apple scored a series of wins across its utility patents (which describe specific, novel user interface features). This is particularly notable because Apple perviously failed in its efforts to protect the original Macintosh user interface via copyright claims, in the era before software patents.

Apple's "look and feel" lawsuits of the late 1980s were initially successful in stopping competitors, up until Apple's primary case against Microsoft collapsed when a judge liberally interpreted an agreement between Apple and Microsoft (licensing a variety of Apple's Mac UI elements to Windows 1.0) to include all future versions of Windows, essentially opening up the floodgates for Microsoft to copy the Macintosh user interface verbatim after Apple's appeals ran out in 1994.

After a tech industry eternity of 18 years, Apple has now proven itself capable of winning significant protections on patented elements of its iOS in court, adding to a series of much smaller, recent patent victories.

However, despite proving that utility patents can effectively be used to block competitors from infringing on significant, specific features, Apple's big win didn't come from utility patents. In fact, had Apple only won its infringement claims related to utility patents, it wouldn't have made much progress at all.

That's because it is relatively easy for Samsung (or other vendors) to simply drop or sufficiently modify accused features that infringe upon utility patents, risking only relatively minor damage claims from the patent owner.

This makes it incredibly expensive for Apple to attempt to protect its products via utility patents, because it must wage lawsuits for months only to arrive at rather dismal results, even if it wins.

It's particularly notable that the jury only found infringement by Samsung on specific models; clearly, all Samsung has to do to avoid infringement of Apple's specific utility patents is to deliver a software update.

However, the message the jury sent is clear: Samsung wasn't just found guilty of infringement, it was charged with willful infringement on all of those utility patents. WIth that now a matter of record, Apple has the option to pull out other patents against Samsung that are more complex and difficult to argue, but also far more difficult for Samsung to evade through software patches.

Design patents were Apple's big win

Much more significant (in terms of damages it can claim) are Apple's wins related to three of its four design patents asserted in the case. The vast majority of the $1.05 billion in damages Samsung must pay come from infringing those design patents.

That's because under U.S. law, infringement of design patents triggers not just damage claims from lost profits or dilution of a brand (both quite difficult to prove), but potentially also the right for the patent holder to demand the profits the infringer has collected in the process of infringing those design patents.

Notably, the jury found Samsung infringing upon three design patents describing the iPhone, but not infringing Apple's D'889 patent related to iPad, very likely for some of the same reasons earlier cases have arrived at the same decision: that Apple's iPad design patent was undermined by two instances of prior art, and that Samsung made some discernible design changes to avoid infringement.

It's also noteworthy that while Samsung was found to be willfully infringing Apple's utility patents, it was not found to be willfully infringing its design patents, a decision the jury likely arrived at because in several cases, Samsung took steps to avoid overt infringement.

More wins for Apple trade dress

While Apple hasn't previously had spectacular success in defending patented software features of the Mac or iOS, it has previously won significant rights to protect its trade dress.

In 2000, Apple won global rights to stop knockoff versions of its then-new iMac, including eMachines' eOne and the Daewoo E-Power. Those cases were fought using trade dress claims rather than design patents.

As a result of this jury's latest decision, Apple is likely to devote more efforts to spelling out and officially registering its trade dress claims, as it won "protectable" claims only over specific instances of its trade dress.

Apple had also unsuccessfully tried to argue for protection of unregistered trade dress elements, just because of the widely recognized nature of its famous iOS devices. This didn't result in convincing the jury that those additional, unregistered trade dress claims were worthy of protection however.

No luck for scattershot patent claims

While Apple won a strong affirmation for some of its strongest patent claims (this case was limited to a total of just eight Apple patents), the same was not true for the six patents Samsung tried to apply in its "offense as the best defense" strategy.

The jury found no infringement by Apple in any of Samsung's asserted patents. That's a strong blow against the concept of trying to defend against infringement by simply throwing up hailstorm response of counterclaims, particularly ones as weak as those Samsung asserted.

Of course, both Apple and Samsung have plenty of other patents they could bring to subsequent trials, even if these were among the two company's strongest. At the same time however, Samsung has lost big in its gamble of letting the courts decide the terms of its contractual obligations with Apple (even if its damage claims might be lowered on appeal).

It has also been found to have willfully infringed upon Apple's patents, setting the stage for more complex trials arguing followup claims, if Samsung decides to keep litigating rather than start negotiating.

More negotiations, fewer lawsuits

The jury's verdict will likely have the effect of encouraging Apple and Samsung to work together as amicably as possible in the future, as Apple attempted to do in 2010 when it first approached the company in the effort of working out a patent licensing agreement.

As the "most sued company on earth," Apple knows enough about the court system to seek to avoid trials if at all possible. Having won a major case against Samsung, Apple will likely be emboldened to negotiate future issues armed with a track record that spells out the potential dire consequences of losing to the iPhone maker in court.

After losing its "look and feel" copyright case with Microsoft in the early 1990s, Apple subsequently resolved its remaining issues with the company in a win-win agreement brokered by Steve Jobs, who famously introduced the d?tente by saying:
"We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose. We have to embrace a notion that for Apple to win, Apple has to do a really good job."
Apple has since worked to broker a series of agreements involving intellectual property claims with Microsoft, Creative, Nokia and many others. Samsung has been the first major competitor/business partner to attempt to play hardball with Apple in the patent business, and its very significant loss in doing so will likely cause other vendors to rethink their legal strategy as well.

Principal among these is Google's Motorola subsidiary, which has attempted to assert the same type of "offense as the best defense" strategy as Samsung did in its own high stakes gamble to force Apple into expensive licensing of the company's standards essential patents that were previously committed to Fair, Reasonable and Nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms.

The goal of these types of claims (previously attempted by Nokia before it backed down and came to a mutually acceptable agreement with Apple) is to force Apple to give up its proprietary patent rights in exchange for the ability to build standards-compatible devices.

This strategy has not only failed miserably in the Samsung case, but is also under new scrutiny by the standards bodies themselves and by antitrust regulators who are actively investigating the conduct of Samsung and Motorola with regard to their alleged FRAND patent abuse, both in U.S. and in the E.U.

What remains to be seen

While the jury has answered its questions, there are many questions that remain to be answered. First: how much impact will Samsung experience in going back to its pre-infringing designs?

While Apple's case argued the story that Samsung was struggling to build Android devices up until it hit its "crisis of design" moment in 2010 and embarked upon a three month intense copying effort, Samsung has since established itself as a major brand and Apple's primary competitor in high end smartphones.

It's certainly not clear that customers will abandon the firm just because it stops making devices that look like the iPhone. At the same time, for a company that earned half as much as Apple in the last quarter despite selling twice as many phones, the loss of over $1 billion is a significant sting.

Will Samsung blaze a more original path as Motorola, HTC, LG and Nokia have, or will it simply tweak its designs based on what it has learned in defending itself against Apple's patents, and continue to be the Android licensee known for making devices that most closely resemble Apple's?

Additionally, what will the result of Samsung's decisions have on its bottom line? And will other companies emulate its "how close can we be without getting sued" strategy, given that it paid off fairly well, particularly relative to the moribund sales seen by the more original Motorola, HTC, LG and Nokia?

Further, will Apple continue its efforts to take its business away from Samsung to further punish the company for double-crossing it in the way court documents have shown it did, starting in 2007 and continuing with intensity from 2010 to today? What effect will that have on Samsung?

Additionally, what about Samsung's claims that a win for Apple would result in fewer options and higher prices for consumers? So far, Apple has been effective in pushing down prices in smartphones and tablets, to the point that smartphones are more affordable than ever.

At the same time, Apple has also effectively demonstrated that the majority of the market (and certainly the premium end of the market) actually wants to buy the same thing, not a huge variety of wildly different models.

None of these questions can be answered by a jury, but the jury's verdict has set in motion a new set of rules that will dictate how the tech industry operates in America, even if the courts in Samsung's native Korea beat it to the punch with a much weaker affirmation of patent rights mixed with an approval of Samsung's anti-FRAND standards essential patent strategy.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,989member


    The telephone lines have been busy.


     


    "Hello, is that Microsoft, I'm after an unencumbered operating system for my phones."

  • Reply 2 of 35
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    hill60 wrote: »
    The telephone lines have been busy.

    "Hello, is that Microsoft, I'm after an unencumbered operating system for my phones."

    Yes, I expect Microsoft to benefit from this.

    The most surprising thing to me is that Samsung was found not guilty of violating the tablet design patent. It looked to me like that patent was even easier to prove than the phone design patents.
  • Reply 3 of 35


    I am not sure if it's right to say that,


     


    "I am not guilty if I rob/steal for charity. The needies shall lose if I am caught guilty."

  • Reply 4 of 35

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



    The most surprising thing to me is that Samsung was found not guilty of violating the tablet design patent. It looked to me like that patent was even easier to prove than the phone design patents.


    Yeah, I agree.


    I thought it was a good example of an obvious copy.


     


    Still, it won't hurt Apple too much. . .they couldn't sell them anyway ;)

  • Reply 5 of 35
    I'll save my comments till later when people start posting stupid stuff..


    But I got to admit.. Regardless of Bias

    DED has has mastered the English language narrative in comparison to most of what is posted online.

    The writers for WSJ, CNN, BBC, NYT, etc.... Need to hire more people that can write as clearly as DED
  • Reply 6 of 35


    Originally Posted by Spacepower View Post

    DED has has mastered the English language narrative in comparison to most of what is posted online.

    The writers for WSJ, CNN, BBC, NYT, etc.... Need to hire more people that can write as clearly as DED


     


    While I agree, some can write more concisely.


     


    Really, I'm just glad that there weren't any broken quotation marks this time. I know I'd miss at least most of them, going through to edit. image

  • Reply 7 of 35
    pebapeba Posts: 1member
    I agree, this was a very well written piece by Daniel Eran Dilger. Thanks!
  • Reply 8 of 35

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post





    Yes, I expect Microsoft to benefit from this.

    The most surprising thing to me is that Samsung was found not guilty of violating the tablet design patent. It looked to me like that patent was even easier to prove than the phone design patents.


     


    There may be several reasons for the jury to agree with Samsung on the tablets. Here are a couple:


    1. There was a lot of prior art that showed a similar tablet... as long as you didn't look too closely


    2. Apple did not register a dress patent on the iPad like they did on the iPhone.

  • Reply 9 of 35
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member


    I wonder how much all of this has affected Samsung's relationships.


     


    Not only Apple, but other companies that may have considered doing business with them, as well as consumers...


     


    Damaged their social network, much?


     


  • Reply 10 of 35


  • Reply 11 of 35
    vadaniavadania Posts: 425member
    While I agree, some can write more concisely.

    Really, I'm just glad that there weren't any broken quotation marks this time. I know I'd miss at least most of them, going through to edit. :lol:

    I'm both surprised and happy that they even let you edit their "story". I also commend you for helping everyone involved. You're assisting both the writers as would an editor, and us readers as well.

    You are using your position as Moderator to benefit others in that regard.

    I hope I speak for all readers, posters and writers when I say "Thank you very much!".
  • Reply 12 of 35


    I like! The folks at Apple seem over Samsung. They are the future of high tech community.


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


    Cara Chiara


    _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


    Paintshop Pro. This handy guide demonstrates the fun and easy way to create and edit images like a pro, and provides tips on retouching photos, producing artistic effects, animating images, and much more.

    http://carapaintshoppro8.8.je/

  • Reply 13 of 35
    zunxzunx Posts: 620member


    All explained here (parody). Awesome and funny:


     


    Conan O’Brien Breaks Down The Apple/Samsung Trial [VIDEO]


     

  • Reply 14 of 35
    richlrichl Posts: 2,213member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GadgetCanada View Post




     


    You are OS sucks? Trying to figure out what OS stands for in this context...

  • Reply 15 of 35
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    spacepower wrote: »
    I'll save my comments till later when people start posting stupid stuff..
    But I got to admit.. Regardless of Bias
    DED has has mastered the English language narrative in comparison to most of what is posted online.
    The writers for WSJ, CNN, BBC, NYT, etc.... Need to hire more people that can write as clearly as DED

    Someone please save this message for posterity. You don't often hear praise for DED's writing.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    eric475eric475 Posts: 177member


    I wish there were more companies emulating Apple. Alas, Xerox fumbled when it had the chance. Apple would never steal anything. Period.

  • Reply 17 of 35
    oomuoomu Posts: 128member


    Apple never stole xerox.


     


    Xerox did not wanting to sell products, Apple was one of the company who came to Xerox to see their research.


     


    Apple was impressed, bought rights. Apple developed technology to make UI possible and better on common hardware (motorola at the time). The mouse was also developed to be a real product, not a prototype costing hundred of $.


     


     


    -


    you can also see how Apple, Xerox and Adobe worked to develop the first laser printer.

  • Reply 18 of 35
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    Originally Posted by GTR View Post

    I wonder how much all of this has affected Samsung's relationships.


     


    Not only Apple, but other companies that may have considered doing business with them, as well as consumers...


     


    Damaged their social network, much?



     


    Without jumping on that meme's bandwagon, that image reminds me of that British WWII poster. Let's just say, "Keep Calm and Innovate" and leave it at that.





    Originally Posted by Vadania View Post

    I'm both surprised and happy that they even let you edit their "story".


     


    Oh, it's just like any other forum post. And by that I mean that the changes I apply here don't show up on the article itself, which is a shame. But I still edit it here because I personally never go to the site proper, and I feel that if there're other forum users that do the same, they'll appreciate the corrections. You're welcome!

  • Reply 19 of 35


    I'm curious to find out whether Samsung will decided to nit pick and have Apple continue to legally chip away or whether they'll just drop Android all together.  Considering they were apparently trying to copy/modify/fork the open source Android and pull away from Google before all of this happened it wouldn't surprise me if they decided just switch to WIndows phone software to unify their international phone line.  Attempting to maintain a bunch of phone hardware with a bunch of radically different Os' is costly and not the "Samsung Way."


     


    My God, can you imagine if software patents and not just copyright for software was available back when Apple sued MS for stealing the Mac GUI?  Apple would have completely smoked MS and Windows would been nothing but a stolen dream...it must be double vindication for all of the Apple engineers that worked on the original Macintosh to know that the patent system isn't a joke. 

     

  • Reply 20 of 35


    Originally Posted by Imhotep397 View Post

    My God, can you imagine if software patents and not just copyright for software was available back when Apple sued MS for stealing the Mac GUI?  Apple would have completely smoked MS and Windows would been nothing but a stolen dream...


     


    I can't. After having lived through dystopia, it's hard to imagine utopia, you know? image

Sign In or Register to comment.