Justice may be blind, but for the moment a U.S. court has set its sights squarely on Samsung in deciding for Apple in a patent infringement suit involving smartphones manufactured by both companies.
The South Korean company will undoubtedly appeal the more than $1 billion verdict that may even restrict import and sales of some Samsung devices in the U.S. Meanwhile, current Samsung device owners a bit worried about such things as service and support of devices that may one day be restricted, or even if buying a Samsung device may not be the smartest move until the litigation dust has settled.
Is My Smartphone Somehow Illegal Now?
The Brighthand Discussion Forums have been buzzing with the news and speculation about how the decision and future rulings may impact the present and future of Samsung smartphone and tablet products.
DTM, a forum member based in Michigan, believes there is room for concern about the ruling, especially when considering future products or even over-the-air downloads of updates and services related to Samsung products.
“It is not unusual for products to include, in the fine print, that if the product is found to infringe a patent or copyright, the manufacturer has the option of either buying a license from the patent holder (translation: Samsung gives Apple a pile of money and your life goes on as previously), ” he says. “Or, the manufacturer can modify the product to make it non-infringing (translation: you get an update that saves Samsung from giving Apple a pile of money, but does ugly things to your phone.)”
Forum member Hook is a bit less dire, stating “Nothing will happen to already owned devices. The carrier should still provide the same level of service. It would simply be that additional models could not be imported and sold, which is mostly moot with older devices anyway.” The Virginia-based Brighthand forum member does leave the door open to some degree of impact and possible change, saying “things are always in flux… ;-).”
While the Samsung-Apple court decision doesn’t specifically impact Samsung’s popular Galaxy Tab tablet device, the decision did point out that Apple does own patents that relate to how users interact with their tablets — specifically pinch-to-zoom and double-tapping functions used to zoom in and out of Web pages and other content. Since these user interface functions are part of the Google Android OS, this means that Google may be impacted, along with Samsung and other vendors who license Android and may therefore be subject to any decisions related to possible patent infringement charges.
TabletPCReview forum members have voiced some opinions on this possibility as they await the aftershocks of the initial Samsung-Apple ruling.
“I think Samsung should pay for the license of the “zoom in and out” feature because that’s the probably best way to zoom in pictures,” says forum newbie jagger. “Anything other than that should (be) deemed a slight hassle to zoom in pictures.”
Stan S., a more senior forum member, adds, “Apple’s patent pricing is based on the concept of ‘it’s too much’ to pay. The pricing $20-30 per device is designed to make companies move from Android to something else. I’ll tell you right now, MS’ Windows mobile is priced at under $30. Companies are willing to pay $15 to MS (also extortion for only 4 patents when an entire OS can be had for the same or slightly more) because it comes with some guarantees.
Sony (Ericsson) was terrified of the pinch to zoom and tap to ‘fit’ the webpages in a browser when they came out with the X10 in the US. They used long press and +/- buttons on the screen. These and many other gestures should not be patentable or be made FRAND types where the royalty is in pennies.”
Brighthand and TabletPCReview editor Ed Hardy notes that it may be a bit premature to assume what might happen and even speculate on consequences. Whatever the end result, however, there are bound to be some permanent changes on both the smartphone and tablet landscapes.
“There is going to be an appeal, but I doubt it will overturn the entire results of this case,” he points out in the TabletPCReview discussion forum.