A court in the Netherlands has ruled that Apple Inc have infringed patents owned by Samsung. The two companies have been involved in a legal battle for some time, and they have both raised actions for patent infringement against each other, in the courts of several countries. The original basis of the dispute was a claim by Apple that Samsung copied technology used in the iPhone and iPad in producing its own tablet computers and Galaxy smartphones. In response, Samsung claims that Apple has infringed several of its patents.
The court ruled that Apple violated a patent owned by Samsung which relates to the connection of phones and tablets to the internet. The violation relates to several models of both the iPhone and iPad.
Whilst the level of damages payable by Apple to Samsung has not yet been specified by the court, they will be based on Apple’s sales in the Netherlands since 4 August 2010. This is the date on which the court ruled Apple could have been aware it was violating the patent in question.
A Samsung spokesperson said that they would seek “adequate compensation for the damages Apple and its products have caused”. However, due to the classification of the patent, Samsung will not be able to enforce a ban on the import and sale of the relevant models in the Netherlands.Whilst Samsung was successful in relation to one patent, the court dismissed Samsung’s claims that three of its other patents were infringed by Apple.
It is unclear if and how this ruling will affect the outstanding disputes between the two companies. In May, a judge in the USA ordered the Chief Executives of both Apple and Samsung to meet in an attempt to settle the disputes. However, no agreement was reached and various court actions remain outstanding. Indeed, since this US court order was made, Apple has sought to ban Samsung from selling one of its tablet computers and its latest smartphone.
Melissa Chau, an analyst with IDC Asia Pacific, has suggested that the patent disputes are an attempt by both companies to prevent the other from increasing their market share in an increasingly competitive market. Other analysts have suggested that, as some of the outstanding cases are likely to be won by both parties, there may be increased pressure on them to reach a settlement.
Whilst this decision only applies to one of the patents in dispute, and only relates to the Netherlands, it highlights the way in which large corporations are using patent rights as an additional tool in their battle for market share.