יום רביעי, 20 באפריל 2011

Apple finds Samsung's tablets and smart phones surprisingly similar

Technology blog Techdirt has the details on Apple's lawsuit against Samsung. Considering prior news-stories I've read regarding this lawsuit, it has been a bit of an anti-climax.

Naturally, one cannot be absolutely confident regarding the outcomes of a trial, and yet, one has a feeling Apple's claims are not specific enough, and might as well be related to most other tablets, E-readers, smart phones and other current-technology gadgets.

One cannot ignore the nagging feeling that the emotions behind this lawsuit are less of the "they stole that from us!" category and more of the "God! they are doing it just as well as we do. How come we are no longer in the lead?"  

[update: as one could have expected, Samsung has fired back and the Patent War is on. This is probably going to be another fine example for the current lack of connection between modern patent law usage and scientific and technological advancement. Will we ever learn ? ]

[update, 14/7/2011: Apple seems to be slowly losing ground in this legal battle. Could it be that Apple is not as good as Microsoft in living off its competition ?  ]

[update, 10/8/2011: While in the U.S, at least a month ago, it seemed Samsung was holding grounds, if not better, the preliminary proceedings in Europe are going Apple's way. ]

[update, 30/8/2011: Tech Blog Arstechnica provides an excellent summary of the international state of the Intellectual Property war Apple has waged on Samsung. Definitely worth reading as it gives a very good coverage of the strategic role of IP law suits nowadays. The bottom line appears to be that "Apple's wins have so far been mostly a façade ... Apple could eventually be successful in court, but haven't really affected Samsung in any way that might pressure the company to seek a truce.If Apple is able to secure an injunction in the US—a remote possibility, it seems—that could change Samsung's tune significantly. However, this battle is likely to wind on for least another year or two through various US and international courts. At that point, Samsung and Apple will have released at least another generation of products, and the market could look far different than it does today."]

[update, 28/10/2011: This time an update which is not purely "legal" (in the formalistic sense), and not because there were no legal incidents in the Apple-Samsung war. There were quite a few, but as far as I understand the legal battle is still on and getting stronger. But on the commercial front, it would appear that Apple has lost, according to a Bloomberg article  telling that "Samsung Electronics Co. overtook Apple Inc. in the last quarter to become the world’s largest smartphone vendor". As I'm an open-architectures believer, I can't say this particular development caught me by surprise. But it does cast a shadow on the impact of the legal efforts in the real front - the smart phones global market. Are we going to see a settlement soon, or is Apple going to fight it to the (probably bitter) end ? ]

[update, 30/11/2011: The Australian front has brought bad news to Apple, as a ban set by lower court was lifted by the a federal court. Apple will most probably appeal to the supreme court down under, so this is really an interim update. An interesting point regarding this report is the court's perception of the time limit, and its willingness to accept Samsung's claim that banning a product for a year is equal to killing it. I believe this may impact the position of courts in 9 other countries, where the Apple-Samsung patents war is waged, if not for pure legal arguments, than because of the knowledge of others courts' judicial policy.
update, 2/12/2011:Apparently, Judicial opinions in Australia vary greatly in this issue. At least varying enough for the ban to be left operative till the high court hears Apple's application for special leave to appeal.
update, 11/12/2011: The Australian variance has been cleared. Australia's high court has accepted Samsung's position: "The High Court acknowledged that its decision would effectively amount to a final determination of the outcome of the patent case as the Tab device would likely be superseded before the matter could be settled at a trial mid-next year.... 'We see insufficient prospects of success on the part of Apple to demonstrate on appeal to this court error by the full court,' High Court chief justice Robert French said shortly before refusing Apple's application with costs."]

[update, 2/1/2012: The Motley Fool has an interesting article stating what is becoming quite obvious: Apple's "scorched earth" patents wars are not fruitful, and might actually be damaging.]

[update, 14/03/2012, According to Forbes, Apple has "had a change of heart under the leadership of the new CEO, Tim Cook. It now looks to be looking to settle the ongoing patent lawsuits with rivals like Samsung and Motorola in exchange for a licensing fee".  This is probably due to Apple's rather late realization that Microsoft's most profitable mobile project of recent years has been Android... Sounds strange, I know, but it gets even better - According to Forbes, Microsoft "extracts a patent licensing of around $10 to $15 from most major Android device manufacturers in the U.S. and is expected to generate billions of dollars from Android in the coming years". Apple's new policy seems like a very smart insurance policy, and a much better choice of doing business, considering the Company's self-perception as a producer of elite products.]

[update, 24/06/2012: A symbolic victory for Samsung in the netherlands. Considering there are now 50+ Apple-Samsung legal conflicts, Samsung needs more than a FRAND patent, to get Apple back to the negotiations table.  On the other side, considering that Samsung is probably working on work-arounds for most technologies claimed as patented by Apple, that the FRAND shield can work both ways when core technologies are disputed, and that in the bottom line, lawyers are currently benefited by this battle much more than Apple is, and most importantly - that on the symbolic level of this conflict, Samsung has proven a difficult adversary for Apple, one can only hope that this concentration on the legalistinc instead of the technological will end soon, with a mutually beneficial compromise. ]

[update, 25/08/2012:  a Huge victory for Apple in its U.S anti-Samsung litigation. The Wall Street Journal reports that
"Jurors Friday found that Samsung infringed all but one of the seven patents at issue in the case—a patent covering the physical design of the iPad. They found all seven of Apple's patents valid—despite Samsung's attempts to have them thrown out. They also decided Apple didn't violate any of the five patents Samsung asserted in the case.
The damage award is shy of Apple's request for more than $2.5 billion, but much larger than Samsung's estimates and still ranking among the largest intellectual-property awards on record."
CNN reports that Samsung has made it clear after the verdict that every possible legal mean to overturn this ruling shall be  taken by the company. This is an important step for Apple, and may very well outline a favorable settlement, changing the balance in the global war between the companies. And yet, it remains to be seen what a higher U.S court, judge-based and not jury-based, shall have to say in the matter. Until then, the discrepancy between this Apple success in the U.S and the relative lack of progress elsewhere in the world (South Korea is a very recent example), shall probably provide food for thought for many legal scholars, just as the conflict itself continues to provide employment for many lawyers all over the world.

The real sad point in this news item, is that it may very well prove patent litigation a powerful tool, and supply many managements around the world another argument in favor of investing in legal battles instead of technological research.]

[update, 25/10/2012: As expected by many, the legal battle is not over, and Samsung strikes back in the European legal front. The UK London High Court ruling, that Samsung's devices are not as "cool" because they lack Apple's "extreme simplicity", has been kept by the appeals court which has confirmed significant design differences between Apple's gadgets and Samsung gadgets. Apple Shall need to "run ads saying Samsung had not infringed its rights" because "The acknowledgment must come from the horse's mouth..."

Apple can still appeal to the UK Supreme Court, and if the Cupertino giant fails to do so, this  ruling shall apply  across the European Union.

The game is still on.]

[update, 19/12/2012: In a rather shocking turn of events for Apple, it appears that the great August victory was not as great as it had appeared. According to CNN Money, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has ruled that "Though evidence that Samsung attempted to copy certain Apple features may offer some limited support for Apple's theory, it does not establish that those features actually drove consumer demand."
As a result the Samsung phones involved in the case (among which is the Galaxy S II), will not be taken off  shelves. Judge Koh has not yet ruled on the the $1 billion award, but she has denied Samsung's request for a new trial (which was based on a claim that the jury foreman, Velvin Hogan, was prejudiced against Samsung).  The ruling that Apple  has not established a sufficient causal connection "between infringement of its design patents and irreparable harm" will most probably be appealed. Unless, of course, the rivals shall reach  some form of settlement. ]

[update, end of 2013: On June Samsung had a small victory, in the image of a limited ban by the U.S. International Trade Commission on sales of the older Apple iPhones and iPads, as the commission found that Apple had violated a Samsung patent,[8] but this was nullified following a veto. ]

[update, May 2014: Samsung and Apple Inc announce agreement to scale down their international legal war and withdraw patent lawsuits outside the United States ] 

[update, September 2014: Apple and Samsung have indeed dropped all ongoing patent litigation outside the United States.  The U.S litigation is still on, but as Apple's last attempt for a ban failed, it seems that the end of this litigation may come soon. In a larger perspective, Forbes reports of accumulating signs which indicate that the patent wars are dying out

Is it the end of the mobile gadgets patents war or is it just a temporary peace? Only time will tell. And still, one can hope that law shall follow the revolutionary pace of technology and that we shall see patent laws reformed so that their usage shall promote scientific and technological advancement, instead of holding competitors back. ] 


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