The dispute between Apple and Samsung on smartphones and tablets has received much public attention. Recently, a landmark verdict was reached when a California based court decided in Apple’s favour. Samsung now has to pay at least one billion US dollars to Apple, who also has sought a sales ban in the USA on a number of the Samsung products involved. A preliminary injunction hearing is scheduled on September 20, 2012.
The court held that Samsung had infringed several of Apple’s utility patents for user interface related functions in both smartphones and tablets, including one utility patent relating to the now well known “bounce-back feature”. However, what is more interesting; the court considered that Samsung had infringed a number of design patents, for example relating to the appearance of the physical device as well as the design of its graphical user interface. This kind of intellectual property dispute normally tends to be dominated by technical patent issues, thus it’s an interesting and exciting development to see that protection of design has had such a great impact on the court’s decision.
Evidence in the court proceedings included an email from Google to Samsung, pointing towards that Samsung’s “P1” and “P3” tablets (Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1) were “too similar” to the iPad and demanding “distinguishable design vis-à-vis the iPad for the P3”. Additionally, Apple presented an internal Samsung technical development report where Samsung’s team of engineers compared the Samsung prototype with an iPhone.
So, is this the end for Samsung’s Android based smartphones? Most likely not. It should be fairly easy for Samsung’s engineers to design around Apple’s patents and design protection, however at the cost of losing some of the features nowadays generally expected when buying a Samsung smartphone. In any case, we may see a shift from Android based smartphones towards the use of the Windows Phone operating system. This is most likely well received by Microsoft, having a planned release of Windows Phone 8 later this year.
Magnus Nilsson, European Patent Attorney