The jury in the most-anticipated patent trial I can remember, and certainly in the mobile phone and tablet industry, has reached a verdict surprisingly soon – after less than three full days of deliberation. And while Apple didn’t win on all claims, it comes out the victor in this trial…pending appeal, of course.
It’s hard to summarize such a complex trial involving so many patents, devices (including the Galaxy S, S II, Epic 4G, Captivate, Vibrant, Infuse 4G, Droid Charge, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1), and three different Samsung corporate entities, but I’ll give it my best shot, with some help from The Verge (and more help from The Verge here):
Apple’s design patents and the jury’s finding:
The ‘677 Patent and the ‘087 Patent both describe an iPhone with an uncluttered front display made of glass, rounded corners, an edge border, a home button, and a speaker slot. The jury found that almost all of Samsung’s smartphones in question infringed both patents.
The ‘305 Patent describes the iOS user interface: a grid of icons with a dock for icons at the bottom of the display. The jury found that most of Samsung’s devices infringed the ‘305 Patent.
The ‘889 Patent relates to the iPad and describes a rectangular electronic device with a thin bezel, outer edge border, rounded corners, and rounded edges where the back casing meets the front display. This was a positive for Samsung, as the jury found that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 line of tablets did not infringe the ‘889 Patent.
Apple’s utility patent claims and the jury’s findings:
The ‘381 Patent, commonly referred to as the “scrollback” or “rubberbanding” patent, describes how a background image (a textured grey image in iOS) is displayed when a user scrolls beyond the edge of a page, and how the page bounces back afterwards so that the edge of the page aligns with the edge of the display. The jury found that all of Samsung’s devices infringed the ‘381 Patent.
The ‘915 Patent, commonly referred to as the pinch-to-zoom patent, describes how a user can use to fingers, either moving closer together or further apart, to zoom in on a display. The jury found that most of Samsung’s devices infringe the ‘915 patent.
The ‘163 Patent, known as the tap-to-zoom patent, describes how a user tapping a point on the display will result in the display zooming in and centering around the tapped point. The jury found that many Samsung devices infringe the ‘163 Patent.
Apple’s trade dress claims and the jury’s findings:
Trade dress falls under the trademark umbrella and refers to visual elements of a product or its packaging that denote its source of manufacture to consumers. The classic example of trade dress is the shape of a coke bottle, but other examples can include the circular Corvette tail lights and the Tiffany blue box. When a third-party “blurs” the consumer association of the mark with the producer, then that third-party is said to have diluted the trademark. The owner of a trademark need not register the mark to have legal protection (though there are benefits to registering), and in this case the documentation regarding Apple’s trade dress claims is limited to one registration, and that one registration applies to the iPhone 3G/3GS. The jury found that Samsung diluted the trade dress relating only to the iPhone 3G/3GS, and only with regard to certain devices.
Samsung’s patent claims and the jury’s findings:
Samsung alleged that Apple infringed two of its standard-essential patents – ‘941 and ‘516 – that relate to the transmission of data over a 3G network. The jury found that Apple did not infringe either patent.
Samsung also alleged that Apple infringed three of its utility patents: the ‘460 Patent relating to the transmission of emails with or without embedded images from a camera phone, the ‘893 Patent relating to the method used when switching between the camera and gallery display, and the ‘711 Patent relating to displaying music playing in the background while multi-tasking on a device. The jury found that Apple did not infringe any of Samsung’s utility patents.
Apple was awarded just under $1.05 billion in damages. Samsung was awarded no damages.
We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it. The mountain of evidence presented during the trail showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.
Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer. It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.
My thoughts on the verdict:
As I was following the jury verdict on Twitter and various liveblogs, I started to get a sinking feeling in my stomach as it became increasingly clear that the verdict was going to really be in Apple’s favor. I don’t really have a dog in the fight here – I like Apple’s products a lot, and I also like Android devices, though for full disclosure at the moment I am more into the latter – but more than anything, I love reading about new technology, and especially in the smartphone and tablet arena where technology is developing lightning-fast. While Apple has paved the way in some respects, all technology products – including those made by Apple – have benefited by the fierce competition we see in this growing area. Perhaps if Android-powered tablets didn’t finally begin to become viable options about a year ago, we wouldn’t see an iPad with an incredible 2048×1536 display resolution. Maybe if Android-powered devices didn’t adopt 4G-LTE early on, even at the expense of decent battery life, then the new iPhone and the current iPad would still be sitting back on 3G. Ditto for the next iPhone’s larger display size, as the larger HD displays found on some Android phones have really made the 3.5″ iPhone screen look outdated. The same can be said for iMessage, which came as a result of BlackBerry Messenger and is clearly better than SMS messaging, as well as for pull-down notifications. I’m not saying this to claim Android and BlackBerry is to thank for all innovation. Apple certainly deserves credit for taking us away from physical keyboards and moving towards touchscreens, incorporating media into our smartphones, and basically forcing so many mainstream companies to adopt the concept of an “app,” among other developments.
My point is that all this competition is good for innovation because it pushes the competition to improve their devices in order to stay competitive. Maybe Samsung came too close to iPhone elements in some of its earlier devices – the case for willful copying was pretty strong and those Samsung documents describing how Samsung phones should be more like iPhones didn’t gain it any sympathy – but to uphold the validity of patents describing a device with rounded corners and a flat, all-glass front display (the ‘677 and ‘087 Patents), a grid layout of apps and a dock at the bottom of the display (the ‘305 Patent), or pinch- and tap-to-zoom functionality (the ‘915 and ‘163 Patents), both of which are integral to using touchscreen displays, seems to be asking for the innovation we currently see to slow down because of the lengths that competitors will now have to go to in order to avoid claims of infringement. In short, my criticism here is not with Samsung being punished for what seems like intentional copying; my issue is that the validation of patents that are so basic and are the result of the natural progression of an industry rather than true invention will really hurt future invention and innovation in the industry.
I think it is a safe bet that Samsung will appeal this verdict. Before an appeal, there will be motions by Apple for triple damages based on Samsung’s willful infringement, injunctions banning sales of infringing devices, and for a judgement notwithstanding the jury verdict to set aside the finding that the Galaxy Tab 10.1 does not infringe an iPad design patent. There will also be motions by Samsung to toss out all jury verdicts that went against Samsung and to issue an order finding invalidity and/or non-infringement or a new trial. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for
September 20 December 6.
I also think that this is not sounding the death knell for Android – newer versions of Android stray further from the look and feel of iOS, and newer devices look less like the iPhone. While arguments could be made against other Android devices, it seems to me that Samsung and its TouchWiz user interface was most blatant in trying to look and function like the iPhone. For that reason, I think there is still a bright future for Android. That being said, the validation of the tap-to-zoom and pinch-to-zoom patents does concern me since those are crucial elements to using a touchscreen device. [UPDATE: Apparently the pinch-to-zoom patent is very narrow and there are many work-arounds.]