The latest legal bout between the two technology titans Apple and Samsung recently resulted in a victory for Apple in the United States. This article looks at the background to the legal conflict between the parties, the most recent verdict and what might happen next.
Apple and Samsung have been locked in dispute over the technology contained in their respective smartphones and tablet computers for some time now. Courts in numerous countries have been asked to decide claims and counterclaims regarding a number of intellectual property rights in aspects of a number of each company’s products.
Various legal proceedings have been raised in nine different countries, the European Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market and the International Trade Commission. In England, the Patents Court recently ruled in favour of Samsung, declaring that Samsung’s Galaxy tablet did not infringe a registered Community design right owned by Apple.
Although Samsung seemed to have gained the upper hand in that decision, the latest decision, granted in the United States regarding patents, has been decided firmly in Apple’s favour.
The latest decision in the on-going battle was granted on 24 August by the US District Court of San Jose. After a four week trial, the jury found overwhelmingly in Apple’s favour, agreeing that six out of seven of Apple’s patents had been infringed by Samsung. They further held that Apple had infringed none of the six patents that Samsung put forward in its counterclaim. Apple was awarded damages of $1.05 billion (£664 million).
The patents that Apple claimed Samsung had infringed were three patents relating to software and four patents relating to the design of the devices. The software patents covered “list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display”, “application programming interfaces for scrolling operations” and a “portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying structured electronic documents”. The design patents all related to the appearance of Apple devices. The only patent that Samsung was found not to have infringed was a design patent relating to "the ornamental design for an electronic device", covering the rounded corners of a tablet computer.
It is worth noting that this trial related only to 28 Samsung devices. Most of these devices are now outdated and Samsung’s most popular smartphone, the S3, was not included, as it has only recently been launched. However, eight of the devices that were covered by the trial are not outdated. These devices will be the subject of Apple’s next move in its legal duel with Samsung, which would seek an injunction prohibiting sales of those Samsung devices in the US.
In the near future, Apple will seek to build on its recent win by applying for an injunction that would prohibit Samsung from selling the eight smartphones in question in the United States. A hearing date has already been set for this application – 6 December. Even though Samsung’s popular S3 will not be included in this injunction, given it was not included in the trial discussed above, if the injunction was granted Apple may then be able to apply for an injunction covering the S3 by way of the quicker contempt proceedings. Samsung has vowed to fight the case, which will involve it appealing this recent judgment. This tactic could allow Samsung to delay payment of the $1.05 billion damages, and any injunction, until the appeal is decided.