In California, yesterday Apple won the lawsuit against Samsung as the court ordered Samsung to pay 1.05 billion US dollars in damages. This is another reason to enjoy for Apple, which has become the most valued company in the history of all businesses recently. This lawsuit is very significant in the cell phone market today. This court case is something that we have been looking forward to for a long time.
Android-based Samsung devices (tablets and smartphones) have been competing severely with iPhone and iPad. Consumers know the quality and features available in the devices by both of these companies. However, the future may be significantly different for Samsung with this verdict.
The Beginning of the Lawsuit
Last year (2011 April) Apple started its legal battle against Samsung with a demand for 2.5 billion dollars toward reparation. The spat between these two stalwarts in the mobile market was regarding infringement of Apple’s design patents. Look at the image below, published by BBC, aptly describing the issue:
It looks as if Samsung was woken up abruptly from a slumber (by iPhone) and started developing products conforming to the latest, hot design standards.
Two quotes made by Samsung should be mentioned here at this point:
It (the verdict) will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices.
This decision should not be allowed to stand because it would discourage innovation and limit the rights of consumers to make choices for themselves. : by Samsung lawyer, John Quinn.
I would like to note here that Samsung didn’t innovate in the design front; it was Apple that came up with a new design first and Samsung merely followed that trend.
The Galaxy series of tablets and phones look not so different from iPad and iPhone. Almost two dozen models from Samsung were found to be guilty of design theft. The specific models hit include Galaxy Prevail, Galaxy S series, Mesmerize, Fascinate, Infuse, etc., which look suspiciously similar to iPhone. Also, from a distance, who can identify between the popular iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab?
Other user interface options that Apple claims Samsung copied include ‘bounce back’ feature that makes menus and icons bounce back when you tap through them.
Apple also claims Samsung copied the tap-to-zoom feature from iPhone.
If you look at the array of lawsuits between these firms, you know that each has in fact stolen from the other. Recent verdict in a Seoul court made Samsung pay Apple 25 million won and Apple, 40 million won in return. The Seoul court had found out that Apple had violated two patents by Samsung while Samsung had violated one.
In another lawsuit in the UK, the British court had invalidated Apple’s claims of violation of their patents by Samsung.
In Australia, it was Samsung’s victory over Apple, and Galaxy tab had thrived there over iPad.
Strategies & Thoughts
Apple began the battle back in 2011, showing the obvious design theft done by Samsung. In return, Samsung had filed a case against Apple claiming around 400 million. Now, it’s clear that to a bystander it would seem that Apple had the genuine cause. Looking at the evidence too (the devices by Samsung that look a lot like the popular iPhone), anyone would be compelled to support Apple rather than Samsung. The return lawsuit by Samsung might have given it a suspiciously offensive outlook. They probably thought offense is the best defense. Probably that lawsuit made Samsung less favorable to the current jury.
Samsung’s latest addition to the Galaxy S series, Galaxy S3, has a predominantly different design among the entire line of smartphones by the company. Also, Samsung marketed it with the tagline ‘designed for humans’, and tried to send a blow to Apple by saying ‘there are no straight lines in real life’. These gimmicks are obviously the direct reverberation of the continuing lawsuit.
Now, Apple has the upper hand, and it can demand removal of over two dozen models by Samsung from the US market of smartphones. Google Android will get a hit if this happens as most of the popular devices in this operating system are manufactured by Samsung.
In terms of other hardware specific details, Samsung phones have always excelled over the iPhone. They come with impressively large displays mostly based on AMOLED technology; some phones have mobile payment technology based on NFC (what is this?) and Google Wallet; high-speed multicore processors; and they are remarkably cheaper than iPhone.
In this legal win for Apple, one of the most important opinions was made by Christopher Marlett, CEO of MDB Capital Group that specializes in intellectual property:
I don’t know if $1 billion is hugely significant to Apple or Samsung. But there is a social cost here. As a company, you don’t want to be known as someone who steals from someone else. I am sure Samsung wants to be known as an innovator, especially since a lot of Asian companies have become known for copying the designs of innovators.
Apple had an impressive strategy to win this case. They established facts and convinced the jury that they believed in a product like iPhone to invest a billion and four years for its design and marketing. They were able to prove without doubt that their product designs have been copied. Even one of the witnesses by Samsung was made to concede to the supremacy of Apple in the design front.
On the other hand, Samsung’s arguments centered on their ‘pressure’ in the market after the launch of an innovative product like iPhone; it looked like Samsung was clueless in its pleadings. The lawyers probably didn’t focus on the obvious necessity for a design similar to Apple’s for bringing out devices with large displays. They probably also didn’t discuss other areas of innovation that Samsung has an upper hand on, such as the display technology and hardware superiority.
The district court judge, Lucy Koh presiding over the Apple Samsung lawsuit has ordered that the penalty Samsung needs to pay to Apple be reduced by 450,514,650 dollars. Hence, now Samsung needs to pay only 598,908,892 dollars. There is a detailed analysis done by FOSS Parents blog.
This particular win for Apple will create awareness among cellphone designers out there. We will probably be seeing innovative designs and user interfaces from other companies. Google will also probably make radical changes to Android to ward off any other possible lawsuits based on technology. Although at present there is no danger to Google or Android, the future is difficult.
Apple’s lawyers, led by Harold McElhinny, have requested a pullout of infringing Samsung devices from the market, and increased damages closer to 4 billion. On the other hand, lawyer, John Quinn of Samsung has requested the verdict to be nullified. Hearing for Apple’s move for sales injunction will be held on September 20.