The patent war between Apple and Samsung is far from over. This is a war that crosses borders and boundaries. The lines of division have been drawn and people are divided over the various outcomes. Here is what is at stake and what it means to you:
Apple’s own Steve Jobs said that two hundred patents would protect Apple’s iPhone design and technology. The length, width and shape of the iPhone, iPad and iPod are all protected by design patents; which means that no one can use that shape and size for a product without going to Apple for permission.
Samsung’s Galaxy devices have the same shape but the dimensions are different; only slightly different. You could look at both and hold them in your hands and barely tell the difference. Still the measurement is different and so it is not exactly the same. Apple’s devices are white and Samsung’s are black, but looking head on, even Samsung’s attorney couldn’t tell the difference at ten feet.
Apple claims that the rounded corners are their idea, but can you patent rounded corners even if you have specific degrees on those corners? This and other questions have consumers confused over what the war is about.
If Apple wins in the US then Samsung products can be stopped at the border which means that you would no longer have a choice between Apple and Samsung. You have to ask yourself if that is fair to the consumer who would like to have a choice. Competition generally means lower prices to the consumer.
If Samsung wins then that means inventor’s ideas, even though they are protected by an international patent through the United States Patent Office, could be copied and mimicked by other countries and they could undercut your price by selling their knock-offs all over the world. That could mean higher prices moving forward as inventors try to protect their own interests as more lawsuits are filed. When companies have to pay attorney’s fees, the cost eventually trickles down to the consumer.
We have already seen many people in this country imprisoned or fined for selling knock-offs but those carried the same or a very similar logo. Many knock-offs are designed in such a way as to be indiscernible except by an expert.
Samsung’s Galaxy is clearly marked as a Galaxy, so what is the problem? The consumer will make their choices based on features most of the time; occasionally the decision is made on price. Regardless of who wins, these cases could set a precedent for future releases. Think about “You Didn’t Build That.” The comment that had so much recent press applies here. You can build something new out of components and patent the new device, but you have to pay the previous patent holders for using their components. What if you had to pay the patent holders for the nuts and bolts that put the device together? Even though other inventions were using the same components without paying the patent owner? Usage is implied in that case. You already pay to use them, when you buy those nuts and bolts in the marketplace. That is what the difference is between a design patent which is the look and feel and the software patents and chips inside that make the device do the work.
If every company has to have a software developer, a design team, a chip company, and the rest, new items would be slower coming to the marketplace. Costs would rise exponentially and we’d be back where we were when a personal computer cost over two thousand dollars. Normally a patent covers your invention for twenty years. The question is, with information technology, should the patent cover you for that long?
Apple pays Samsung for every component that is used in their iPhone 4 and other products. Samsung refuses to pay Apple for copying their design ideas. Samsung claims that without their technology and earlier patented designs, the iPhone wouldn’t even be possible. Among the earlier technology that Samsung wanted to be paid for was an Intel chip. Apple pays Intel for the chip; Intel has already paid Samsung for licensing of the patent; Samsung wants Apple to pay them for that usage even though the law is clear. Intel has paid for licensing the chip’s patents and is allowed to sell the chip to others. If Samsung is allowed to charge for that again, what are the consequences for all of the other companies that purchase the chip from Intel? This is patent exhaustion and Apple won the battle of the chip.
Apple claims that Samsung requested the iPhone, iPad and iPod products so that they could make sure their ideas would not infringe on the copyrights. If that is true and proven in court then they have clearly tried to design their Galaxy products to be similar but not exactly the same.
Many countries have already made their decisions. South Korea has decided not to carry either of the products (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19364875 ) while the Dutch have decided in favor of Samsung. The British court simply threw parts of the case out and ruled that the Galaxy Tab does not infringe on any of Apple’s patents. A California court decided in favor of Apple but Samsung has appealed that decision and the battle continues now in Washington.
With all of that being said, when one of the attorneys for Samsung was asked if he could tell the difference between the Apple iPad and the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 from across the room he said “Not at this distance, your honor.” Consumers say that they could tell the difference at the estimated ten feet so you would think that the attorney who is working for Samsung would be able to. I found a blog that had photos for a side by side comparison and it’s pretty sketchy.
Samsung’s most recent lawsuit is against Apple for technology used in the iPhone 5. The disputed technology falls under “software” which as you know is often shared by a lot of devices. The software includes the method to capture and share video, and the way to synchronize photos, video and music across multiple devices. These are advertised perks that come with the iPhone 5 and software falls under a special type of law called FRAND.
FRAND stands for “Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory” rights. Without the FRAND clause there is a lot we would not be able to do over the internet and across devices because Samsung owns about 30,000 US patents. Apple could be forced to pay Samsung but the price would have to be fair and reasonable, and they wouldn’t be able to charge more than they charge another company for similar usage.
This is a battle that Apple has won in US courts already as one judge stated that software and technology evolves at such a rapid rate, by the time the lawsuit is over there will be new technology and a new product on the market. The problem, he says, is that the laws were written for Pharmaceutical companies because they spend millions in research, development and testing before bringing a product to market. Software is rapidly discarded as new developments are made and the clause should not apply. He also accused Samsung of abusing US patent law.
The temporary US ban on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 was lifted at the end of the California ruling in August 2012 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19796178 ) because the Galaxy didn’t infringe on any of Apple’s design patents. Apple had won the case and Samsung was ordered to pay $1billion in damages. The resulting appeal hadn’t been filed yet, nor had Samsung’s suit over Apple’s iPhone 5. I have a feeling this will be going back and forth for a long time; the battle continues.