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Old August 25th, 2012   #1
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Default Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

Apple took Samsung to court in the United States over accusations that it infringed on its iPhone patents, which decided this past Friday in Apple's favor. Samsung was fined a $1 billion penalty, but the big problem here for Samsung and other phone makers is the more far-reaching ramifications of this decision regarding how phones are designed. Apple has been known for its very aggressive approach in both applying and protecting its copyright, everything from its physical design to the appearance of its UI (the latter of which played a role in this trial, where Apple argued that Samsung's Galaxy ripped off the iPhone's menu).

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http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/te...it-magnet.html

Spoiler:
Apple-Samsung Case Shows Smartphone as Legal Magnet
By STEVE LOHR

The smartphone in your hand is a marvel of innovation, packing sophisticated computing and communications technologies into a sleek digital device.

It is also a litigation magnet.

In the last few years, the companies in the smartphone industry have spent billions of dollars buying patents and hundreds of millions suing one another. On Friday, that battle reached a peak with the decision by a federal jury in San Jose, Calif., to award Apple $1.05 billion in damages from Samsung for infringing on just six patents.

The case underscores how dysfunctional the patent system has become. Patent litigation has followed every industrial innovation, whether it is steam engines, cars or, now, phones. And it is the courts, rather than the patent office, that are being used to push companies toward a truce.

In the end, consumers may be the losers. The substantial legal fees may be passed on in higher prices, analysts say, and litigation can deter entrepreneurs from entering the industry, so there is less competition.

“It is hard not to see all the patent buying and patent lawsuits as a distortion of the role of patents,” said Josh Lerner, an economist and patent expert at Harvard Business School. “They are supposed to be an incentive for innovation.”

By one estimate, as many as 250,000 patents can be used to claim ownership of some technical or design element in a smartphone. Each patent is potentially a license to sue.

Samsung says it will challenge the jury’s decision, which covered design basics like the shape of the iPhone itself and its array of small on-screen icons. So the courtroom conflict could continue for years, and even then, the case is but one of dozens of lawsuits and countersuits in 10 countries between Apple and Samsung, the world’s two leading smartphone makers.

But Apple has more than Samsung in its sights in its litigation campaign. Samsung, the Korean electronics giant, is the leader among companies using Google’s Android mobile operating system. So while Apple may be suing Samsung in courtrooms in Germany and Australia, the real enemy is up the road from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., at the Googleplex in Mountain View.

Ultimately, the Apple-Samsung roadshow is just the main attraction in the global smartphone patent wars. The roster of litigants includes Microsoft, Nokia, HTC, Google’s Motorola Mobility subsidiary and others.

In a recent case between Apple and Motorola, Judge Richard A. Posner, a prominent federal appeals court judge in Chicago, said in court that the use of patents in the smartphone industry showed a system in “chaos.” In June, Judge Posner dismissed the case, chastising both sides. He heaped scorn on Apple’s broad claims for its user-experience patents and on Motorola’s claim that Apple should pay a rich royalty on its basic communications patents. Both companies have appealed.

The disputes are fueled, legal experts say, by companies rushing to apply for patents as both defensive and offensive weapons, and by overburdened government examiners granting patents too easily.

“The smartphone patent battles are enabled by lots of trivial patents that never should have been granted in the first place,” said James E. Bessen, a patent expert and lecturer at the Boston University School of Law. “That’s where Judge Posner was coming from in his ruling.”

To the winners of the patent wars, the rewards will be rich. Mobile computing, or smartphones and tablets, is the most lucrative and fastest growing market in business. It has made Apple the most valuable company in the world. As Samsung passed Apple in the last year to become the largest smartphone maker, its profits surged along with its sales.

Despite the hostilities, experts say the smartphone patent wars will eventually end in an industrial armistice.

The California court decision, if it holds up on appeal, could have that effect. “This ruling sends a message to all the handset makers that you have to make truly differentiated products that look different,” said Colleen V. Chien, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law. “And that’s the message Apple wanted to send with its litigation.”

Legal experts thought Apple would have the most trouble winning infringement judgments on its design patents, which are generally considered weaker than engineering patents for hardware or software, known as utility patents.

But the jury found that Samsung infringed on three of the four design patents in the case. The fourth was a patent for the shape of a tablet computer: a rectangle with rounded corners.

“This could open up a whole new front in the patent wars, as companies race to file applications for design patents,” said Kevin G. Rivette, a Silicon Valley consultant and former vice president for intellectual property strategy at I.B.M.

Yet Mr. Rivette is convinced that the smartphone patent wars will subside and an accommodation will be reached. The sheer number of smartphone patents and the speed of innovation in product development undermine the power of the patents. The situation is very different in an industry like pharmaceuticals, where a blockbuster drug may be covered by a single patent or a few. In chemistry, the molecule is the patentable idea.

In the smartphone industry, an infringement ruling can slow down a rival for a few months, but not block it. Samsung engineers, for example, have already devised an alternative to one of the patents found to have been infringed on: the so-called bounce feature. Pull a finger from the top of the iPhone’s touch screen to the bottom and the page bounces. On the newest Samsung smartphones, the same downward finger stroke brings a blue glow at the bottom of the screen, not a bounce.

“In this industry, patents are not a clean weapon to stop others,” Mr. Rivette said. “The technology, like water, will find its way around impediments.”
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Old August 25th, 2012   #2
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

I can't believe they gave them rounded corners on icons as a patent. Scrolling using one finger, pinch to zoom, stuff like that which has existed in sci-fi for years before it turned up on Apple's patent roster. Especially considering the examples of prior art. I mean Christ, why not just give them breathing as a patent?

Honestly as much as this shows the flaws in the patent system, it shows the flaws in using a jury of your average morons to decide on complex issues of justice and economics. You know, I don't want a bunch of people who don't understand computers and business making these sorts of decisions - I want specialists. Let's get the programmers in, let's get the UI designers in, let's get the artists in; people who actually have the educations to know something about patent law and design and computing. Hell, let's get the sci-fi specific authors and artists in - people who spend their time looking at potential states for stuff like this; I'm sure they'd have something to say about prior art.

Even the judge seems to think the trial was completely ridiculous. Going so far as to ask the lawyers, at one point, whether they were smoking crack.

#

Countries have fallen over less serious obstacles to innovation than the current patent system before. I would not be surprised if a hundred years down the line people look at the patent system's current implementation as what killed Western innovation. Much in the same way you can look at the education system of feudal-era China's implications on social mobility and innovation as what would eventually go on to kill it.

I can't say I'm surprised Apple won though. I mean I'm incredulous but... not surprised. Apple's American, Samsung's Korean - and Apple has very good market presence in the 'states - whereas Samsung's market presence is better in Europe. Popular company won on its home-turf, go figure.

Last edited by Nemmerle; August 25th, 2012 at 03:48 PM.
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Old August 25th, 2012   #3
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

When Apple started to enter the mobile phone business in mid 2000s, they patented really simple ideas that all mobile phones already had at that point. The US patent office accepted those patents.

I think 10 year patents or so for new medicine is fine, but in technology patents have only caused harm. They have hindered development and customer interest, which obviously is the exact opposite what patents should be for.

Another point is that why there even are industrial design patents. So essentially you can patent a ball design for example (there's this ball-formed chair in which you sit). There's just no point, but this is lobbied by the WIPO. This all will get even stricter if ACTA will be ratified.

Trade issues have been problematic before, the European Union has bias against Boeing and supports Airbus, and the US does the exact opposite. But the US has clearly put a new gear in with its favouritism of Apple. Obviously these patents can't be "scientifically" determined, so they're simply tools for protectionist trade politics.

South Korea found that Samsung did not breach patents, and a day later California court found the opposite. Come on, could someone investigate how much the jury are paid by these corporations?

Apple claims they invented multi-touch with iPhone. Seems like someone was Johnny-come-lately here as well considering what Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs had in 2001:
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Last edited by Rikupsoni; August 25th, 2012 at 04:25 PM.
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Old August 25th, 2012   #4
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

I read this a bit earlier from here


The court was able to read through 700+ patents in two days? Then to top it off the jury was the ones to award damages in the case? How did they figure one billion was the worth?

Anyway this is the sort of situation that I would think anti-trust or monopoly laws would go into effect or at the very least, the case shouldn't have been held in the heart of apple-land, aka silicon valley.
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Old August 27th, 2012   #5
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

Just another textbook example of a powerful company taking advantage of its resources. It almost makes Microsoft's legal history look like child's play in comparison.

It really sickens me, and Apple executives are really showing their true colors. To say nothing of the level of arrogance we're dealing with. They pretty much think they can own the entire computer industry and all its subsidiaries and spin-offs. I wonder what will happen once they break into the main-stream TV industry.


Last edited by Adrian Ţepeş; August 27th, 2012 at 11:23 AM.
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Old August 27th, 2012   #6
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

Sounds like Samsung might evade a sales-ban with a simple firmware update.

Interesting what happens when two major corporation clash. It looks like the rules that usually govern patents were thrown out the window relatively early in this case.

Samsung is, by the way, just as much of an "evil corporation" as Apple is, if not more so. They just drew the shorter straw in this case. I like their products more than those of Apple though.


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Old August 27th, 2012   #7
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

Oh, I'm not saying Apple is the only one. After all, DOS wasn't originally Microsoft's

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Old August 29th, 2012   #8
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

Apple has always played dirty, but they're just using the toys our government's draconian patent laws have given them. I can't really blame them for working the system to their benefit.

I'm just amazed they actually won and worried about the consequences for consumers that come with their victory. I hope Samsung's case reaches more sensible ears on appeal. However, in related news, Google has started moving against Apple in response to the verdict. Google is giving Apple a taste of their own medicine and filed patent-infringement lawsuits on seven patents that include products such as the "iPod Touch, the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, the iPad 2 and the “new” iPad, as well as the Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air..."

The ‘Sleeping Giant’ May Have Awoken – xda-developers
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Last edited by Red Menace; August 29th, 2012 at 10:16 PM. Reason: GOOGLE HAS STARTED MOVING
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Old August 30th, 2012   #9
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Default Re: Court decides in favor of Apple in patent case

I guess one could expect this from google though. Interesting how their relationship with Apple went from a mutual interest to competition as the industry developed. A left over of that is the iPhone's factory default search engine as Google, but that will probably change soon. Plus trying to advance their own map program.

I'm just happy I'm not the one dealing with copyrights and patents, a major clusterfuck there. US system definitely needs an overhaul in this area.
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