In a crushing blow that could leave American consumers with far fewer market choices, a San Jose jury has found Samsung Electronics guilty of filching a handful of innovative smartphone features from its primary rival, Apple. As a result, Samsung has been ordered to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages. That’s far lower than the original $2.7 billion Apple originally asked for, but considering what’s likely to happen next, it could all be considered chump change.
Immediately following the verdict, Apple indicated that it intends to file injunctions that could result in a vast number of popular Samsung smartphones being yanked from U.S. shelves. A hearing is set to take place on September 20.
The 6 Impacted Patents
In its lawsuit, Apple claimed that Samsung had violated 7 of its design patents, impacting a slew of some of the South Korean smartphone maker’s most popular mobile devices. Of the 7 patents, Samsung was found guilty of violating 6 in most of the smartphones named. Here’s a breakdown of the impacted patents and what they cover.
- ‘381 Patent: The “rubber band” bounce-back effect that occurs when a user scrolls to the bottom of a web page. Also included are the touch-screen functionalities of pinch to zoom, twist to rotate, and the ability to drag documents from one location to another.
- ‘915 Patent: Single-touch scrolling and multi-touch pinch to zoom.
- ‘163 Patent: Double-tap zoom for zeroing in on a specific section of a web page, document, or photo.
- D ‘677 Patent: Physical exterior design mimicking the iPhone’s edge-to-edge glass design with display border and a small slot for the speaker.
- D ‘087 Patent: Physical exterior design again modeled after the iPhone, this time referring to its rounded edges and a central “Home” button.
- D ‘305 Patent: User interface layout design containing a grid of square icons with rounded edges.
The only patent that Samsung was not found guilty of having violated was Patent D ‘889, which lays claim to the physical design of the iPad’s rounded corners and edge-to-edge glass. Presuming that this minor defeat may not sit well with Apple, it could indicate that filing of yet another tablet-specific lawsuit could be just around the corner.
How Does it Impact Consumers?
Despite Apple’s claims that the intent of the lawsuit was to protect its proprietary ideas and not stifle competition, the verdict is likely to have far reaching ramifications for smartphone customers. If Apple’s bid to force Samsung to remove its patent infringing products from the market is successful, it will mean that consumers will have far fewer products to choose from the next time they go in search of the latest and greatest in smartphone technology.
And while nobody is exactly going to go door to door to confiscate all of the Samsung smartphones that area already out there, users might end up wishing they would. If things continue to go as well for Apple in their gambit against Samsung (and anyone else whose mobile designs come close to the look and feel of the iPhone or the iPad), users could find their smartphones’ functionality drastically altered by court ordered software updates.
Of course every dark cloud has a silver lining, and analysts are already talking about the potential benefits consumers may see as a result of a forced innovation. With certain patented ideas and designs officially off limits to smartphone developers, there may eventually come a giant leap in new directions and designs.
The Real Winner in All Of This
Meanwhile, a company you may know named Microsoft has been watching the developments closely, and CEO Steve Ballmer is probably doing the happy dance right about now. Why? Because suddenly, the Windows Phone is starting to look like a much more viable alternative to those interested in something other than an iPhone.
It could also mean that smartphone makers eager to steer away from iPhone-influenced designs inherent in the Android OS may start to look to Windows as the solution to avoiding legal entanglements with Apple.
Of Nukes and Tactical Strikes
Before his death, Apple head honcho Steve Jobs was quoted as saying, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this… I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong.”
Apple’s lawsuit may not be the nuke that Jobs would have liked to see, but more of a surgical strike. By hitting Samsung where it lives and putting the rest of the Android OS-reliant world of smartphone developers on notice, Apple has dealt an indirect blow to its mortal enemy, Google. It remains to be seen what the long term effects of that blow will be.