Business viewpoint: Patent battle shows system is working
BY MARGARET MILLIKIN Business Viewspoint
Thursday, October 25, 2012
10/25/12 at 3:21 AM
Apple made headlines this week with its iPad Mini announcement, but another significant development for the company was its latest round of legal wrangling.
A California jury recently awarded Apple more than a billion dollars in damages against Samsung for infringing Apple's patent rights in its smartphone and tablet technology.
Apple sued Samsung for infringing three utility patents and four design patents covering Apple products. Apple accused Samsung of willfully copying its technology, such as double tapping an image to zoom and incorporating it into Android smartphones and tablets. In response, Samsung claimed that Apple's patents were invalid and accused Apple of infringing Samsung's patents.
The jury found in Apple's favor on almost every issue and awarded the largest jury verdict in history - $1.05 billion. The jury determined that Samsung infringed all but one of the Apple patents asserted in the lawsuit and that the infringement was willful in some instances, which led to the large verdict. They also found Apple's patents were valid and that Samsung's patents were not infringed.
The effect of the verdict is still unknown. Samsung has been the leader in smartphone sales over the past several years, so the verdict may swing the balance of competitive power to Apple, which is what a patent is supposed to do for the patentee.
A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from practicing the invention for a period of years, and in exchange, the patentee makes public the technology. With the verdict, Apple could seek import bans on Samsung phones and tablets utilizing Apple technology.
However, not all of Samsung's products are affected by the ruling. In the main, Samsung's older model phones are enjoined, but newer products are exempt. These models comprise about 2 percent of Samsung's sales. And, in early October, the federal district judge lifted the injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. Samsung's newer, flashier models are still for sale in the U.S.
The parties are continuing their legal battles, which ultimately are over market share of the $200 billion smartphone industry. Samsung has moved for a new trial on the ground of jury misconduct (claiming the jury foreman owns a patent and relied on information not presented at trial), while Apple seeks to add new Samsung devices to the injunction and requests an additional $700 million in damages.
And, in the U.S., Apple filed a new suit against Samsung based on other products, while Samsung added the iPhone 5 to its claims in the counterpart suit, alleging that Apple infringes Samsung technology.
Some believe the dispute is really aimed at Google, which developed the Android operating system that Samsung and other smartphone manufacturers use. Sales of smartphones operating with the Android system comprise about 52 percent of the market, while Apple iPhones comprise about 33 percent. It's thought that Apple is waging a proxy war against hardware manufacturers whose products use the Android system.
Apple and Google managements purportedly met recently to engage in confidential talks and discuss a wide range of intellectual property matters. We may see these companies share their technologies through global cross-licensing arrangements.
In the end, it means the patent system is working, and the consumer ultimately wins.
Original Print Headline: Patent battle shows system is working
Margaret Millikin is a director and co-chair of Crowe & Dunlevy's Intellectual Property and Technology Group. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily the Tulsa World. To inquire about writing a Business Viewpoint column, email a short outline of the article to Business Editor John Stancavage at firstname.lastname@example.org. The column should focus on a business trend; the outlook for the city, state or an industry; or a topic of interest in an area of the writer's expertise. Articles should not promote a business or be overly political in nature.