Apple-Samsung case shows smartphone as legal magnet
Apple won a decisive victory on Friday in a lawsuit against Samsung, a verdict that will give Apple ammunition in a far-flung patent war with its global competitors in the smartphone business.
The nine jurors in the case, who faced the daunting task of answering more than 700 questions on sometimes highly technical matters, returned a verdict after just three days of deliberations at a federal courthouse in San Jose, California. They found that Samsung infringed on a series of Apple’s patents on mobile devices, awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages.
That is not a big financial blow to Samsung, one of the world’s largest electronics companies. But the decision could essentially force it and other smartphone makers to redesign their products to be less Apple-like, or risk further legal defeats.
Consumers could end up with some welcome diversity in phone and tablet design — or they may be stuck with devices that manufacturers have clumsily revamped to avoid crossing Apple.
Samsung said it would ask the court to overturn the verdict and, if that is unsuccessful, appeal to a higher court.
The jury found that various Samsung products violated Apple patents covering things like the “bounce back” effect when a user scrolls to the end of a list on the iPhone and iPad, and the pinch-to-zoom gesture that users make when they want to magnify an image. Samsung was also found to have infringed Apple patents covering the physical design of the iPhone.
An important effect of the jury’s decision could be the impact it has on Android, the Google operating system used by Samsung and a broad array of other companies in their devices. For every iPhone sold worldwide, more than three smartphones running Android are sold, reflecting the meteoric rise of Google’s software. Apple’s suit against Samsung, the world's largest maker of smartphones, has partly been viewed as a proxy war against Google, which Apple executives have derided as a copycat, swiping Apple’s innovations.
Apple is expected to ask the judge in the Samsung case for an injunction preventing Samsung from shipping products that infringe on Apple's patents. The verdict could also bolster Apple's legal attacks on Android devices from other companies.
Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research, said consumers could experience some discomfort in their use of smartphones if Samsung and other manufacturers are forced to design around certain basic functions to avoid violating Apple’s patents, though he believes the decision will prod them to innovate. “Consumers will adapt, but there will be some bumps in the road as they make that adaptation,” Golvin said.