After taking Samsung to court in nearly every country over patent disputes; the U.S. courts ruled earlier this week in favor of Apple. The jury found that Samsung infringed on three of Apple’s software patents and four of its hardware patents; to the tune of $1.05 billion in damages. Impacted patents include: the “rubber band” effect when scrolling to the bottom of a page, pinch to zoom, double-tap zoom, exterior design, user interface, and screen icons. Samsung did not violate one patent of note, the iPad exterior design; it was ruled that the Galaxy Tab did not copy the iPad, according to the jury.
Apple and Samsung will go back to court on September 20, where Apple will seek to have an injunction placed on the offending Samsung devices, which will pull them from store shelves. There is an interesting wrinkle here however; few of the Samsung devices are still available for purchase, with the Samsung Galaxy S II being a notable exception. Conversely, Samsung has taken action to file against a preliminary injunction placed on its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S., which Judge Lucy Koh granted to Apple back in June. After all, if the jury found that Samsung did not violate the iPad design patent, then why should the device still be banned from store shelves?
So what’s the big picture here? Samsung has to fork over a billion dollars (the company pulled in $5.9 billion in profits last quarter) and stop selling a few devices it isn’t selling anyway? Perhaps though, there are many layers of appeal before this ultimately gets settled. And owners of the offending devices need not worry. Apple is not coming to confiscate your phone, nor will Samsung brick it with an update.
In the meantime, consumers who have their eye on the Galaxy S III, they can breathe easy since the newest Galaxy smartphone was not included in the trial (though Apple is gunning for it in a separate litigation). Also, Google has been quick to state these rulings will not directly affect its Android operating system at its core; but Google now faces the decision to license apple’s patents, come up with a new zoom technique, or appeal the ruling. The Android creator has already announced its plans on appealing the decision so that Apple does not hold exclusive rights to these features.
What about the chilling effect the ruling will have on the smartphone industry? Experts seem torn between excitement about the possibilities of fresh innovation and being frustrated over the limitations this ruling might place on smartphone developers. Some in the industry have expressed concern that fear of a lawsuit might halt innovation or result in haphazardly edited devices in an attempt to remove any traces of Apple elements. Others claim it will force Samsung and the other Android partners to try harder and innovate new smartphone features. While still others think this will be a big win for Microsoft, which has a starkly different operating system in Windows Phone 7, and soon Windows Phone 8, with live tiles and unique navigation. Whatever the case, the Apple and Samsung trial is far from over.