Apple’s $1 billion patent win against Samsung: first thoughts

by: J. Angelo RacomaAugust 25, 2012

Apple has just made a clean sweep in its patent lawsuit against Apple. Basically, Apple won on all fronts, as the jury has declared Samsung infringed on two design patents that covered almost all of Samsung’s Android smartphones. Samsung was also found to have diluted the “trade dress” of Apple’s iPhone, which refers to the product’s visual branding.

As such, Samsung is ordered to pay $1,049,343,540 in damages.

Meanwhile in Samsung’s counter-claim against Apple, the jury decided that Apple owed Samsung nothing. It goes without saying that Apple is pleased with the turnout, and that Samsung is disappointed. Here are a few initial thoughts from both parties.

Apple made a statement through spokeswoman Katie Cotton:

  • The evidence presented showed that Samsung’s copying “went far deeper than even we knew.”
  • Patent lawsuit was about more than just money. They were more about values.
  • “We value originality … making the best products on earth.”
  • Apple applauds the court’s findings and stresses the message that “stealing isn’t right.”

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics issued a statement:

  • The verdict is a “win for Apple, but a loss for the American consumer.”
  • The verdict will lead to “fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices.”
  • Patent law can be manipulated to give one company a “monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.”
  • Samsung and other companies improve on technology.
  • Consumers have the right to choose, and have the ability to know the product they are buying.
  • Other tribunals and courts around the world have already rejected many of Apple’s claims.

Basically, the $1 billion verdict is the largest patent verdict in history, and even with the billions made in Samsung smartphone sales, this is no small change. There is still the question of whether the verdict will result in a ban or recall on Samsung smartphones.

Samsung is adamant at “continu[ing] to innovate and offer choices for the consumer,” although we’re not sure at this point if they will choose to appeal the court and jury’s decision.

Can you be more innovative?

In light of the court’s decision, and the points presented by both Apple and Samsung, what clearly comes to light is the role of patents in innovation, and the extent to which businesses can take liberties at existing intellectual property and work these to their own goals.

I agree with Samsung that for consumers, having a choice is good. I cannot imagine a world in which there is only one dominant smartphone platform that’s not exactly conducive for productivity. If no one challenged the smartphone ideals of the early 2000’s we would still be using clunky Windows-like interfaces on small screens. Or, we’d still be suffering with textinitis from multi-tapping words on a numeric keypad.

I have to give it to Samsung that using patents to monopolize an industry is not exactly good, and that having no competition would result in expensive products.

However, inventors do need to have a reason for innovating. If anyone can just go about copying other products and ideas, then inventors and innovators would cease to find better ways to do things.

They key point here is the merit in Apple’s ownership of their design patents, and why it was not acceptable for a third-party to simply copy these concepts. While I would agree that patent trolling is a questionable enterprise, it’s not as if Apple did not actually have products in the market that use their patented designs.

Samsung could have simply paid to license these patents (which Apple said they offered in 2010). They would have then owed $250 million, which is still a small amount compared to $1 billion and potential product bans.

Or more importantly, they could have gone ahead and made innovations of their own.

It’s not just about rectangles

Samsung has cried that the patent war was about “rectangles with rounded corners.” But what about the other design aspects of Galaxy smartphones? The court says Samsung has diluted the iPhone’s “trade dress” by making their smartphones look like Apple’s. The market response to Samsung’s Android phones is overwhelmingly great, and they are now the dominant brand in Android devices, far overtaking early adopters like HTC and Motorola.

But Samsung could have done better. In Ron Amadeo’s recent review of the Galaxy Note 10.1 on Android Police, he argues that Samsung has gone lazy in producing its Galaxy Note 10.1. It’s almost like Samsung has grown arrogant. “We’re Samsung. You slobs will buy anything we crap out. We don’t have to try, we don’t even need the latest components. You’ll buy it no matter what.”

Amadeo then wonders whether the mobile division is “run by passionless, cost-cutting bean-counters.”

Samsung has all the resources to make great products. Its Series 9 ultrabook uses a special aluminum alloy called Duralum. Samsung manufactures the new iPad’s retina display. Samsung has developed a 20-megapixel CMOS sensor built into its compact NX200 camera.

The big question is why haven’t innovations like these have not made their way into the Galaxy smartphone or tablet series.

I don’t pretend to be a patent lawyer, nor do I love everything that Apple does. But the disappointment for me is that Samsung could have done better in terms of innovation. I hope that the guilty verdict will be good for the smartphone and tablet industry in the long run — especially for Samsung. This might force Samsung to rethink their mobile strategy and perhaps focus on releasing even better phones and tablets in the future.

Any thoughts? We’d love to hear whether you agree or disagree with the verdict, and more importantly, what you think these will mean for us smartphone users.

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  • Ryan MORGAN

    Samsung should refuse to make any parts for the iPhone now, would love to see Apple get screwed over

    • Hikari0307

      Though doing so would equate to a huge loss for both sides since both sides make huge amounts of money from that aggreement~~

      • Whats that mean by “Thermo-Nuclear war” ? In Nuclear war first your opponent will die. With the radiation u will also die soon. If the opponent is also having nuclear weapons, he too fire them before dying.. prepare for that.. That’s why these many countries with Nuclear weapons always says “No first firing”…

  • kim

    Samsung must stop providing components for Apple. It is not acceptable to give technology to your enemy…

  • Paul Peck

    One of the big problems here is that no one really confuses the iPhone with another phone, they may say is that a iPhone when they see the screen, but people are looking at the screen not the rectangle or rounded edges, they are looking at whats on the phones screen.
    Personally I think the decision was wrong as it will now give the go ahead to Apple to sue every other manufacturer that has a similar design (rectangle with rounded edges) which in reality is about 90% of all the smart phone in the world.
    I really think that the only reason this case went to trial was to stop the competition, not to protect its design. Its a sad day for the consumer with this outcome (unless your wanting to buy a iPhone, Tablet).

    • Clayton Ljungberg

      I agree completely. I hope that the verdict doesn’t strongly effect Samsung in the long run. It would be extremely sad to see Samsung cut production of their smartphones/tablets.

    • “I really think that the only reason that case went to trial was to stop the competition, not to protect its design.” very well said.

      • Shani Cochrane

        I agree with this somewhat, but one could ask, if it was you who had designed the phone and it took 3-5 years, and then the competition came out in less than 3 months with something VERY similar to what you had developed, making craptonnes of money on it, would you just lie down and take it? Especially if you offered them to licence your patents and they refused?

        • Paul Peck

          the main difference is the OS and you can really only have some difference in icons, for example think of a phone icon, how many different ways can you design that ?
          The other thing is that a device, like a laptop or a tv, as technology moves on, it will come to the point were the screen is as big as possible and the enclosure is as small as possible, in the case of tv’s, touch screen phones and tablets, what eventually will happen and is happening is that they will all appear similar, its functionality and its OS will distinguish it.
          how many ways can you design a tablet that is 95% screen and make it not look like a competitor? this will be the same for any device as the main screen becomes the main input device aswell.
          Did apple think that the competitors need to design there tablets as a triangle or a circle (I know I am being stupid here, but what do they expect).
          No I stand by my original statement, this was about stopping the competition not protecting its design.

        • Lord Seth

          Think more along the lines of a car. You have to design a new one, to enter the competition in the market.
          Only problem is you can’t design it using a box as the basic shape, it can’t have 4 wheels, and it can’t have a round steering wheel.

          Or you have to design a TV where you can’t put numbers on the top right corner, they can’t be colored green or blue; the bezel can’t be black, it can’t be a rectangular TV and you can’t make it work with a remote control.

          Of course you could, but you have to pay a stupid ammount of money to some guy who happenned to patent all of the above; not the WAY it works, but how it LOOKS and how you interact with it.

          Smartphone competition should be about technological capabilities, no the shape or color of the damn phone, or how you interact with the screen.

          Seriously; a patent for pinching? Anybody remembers how they stopped microsoft from patenting double clicking and right clicking?

    • Matthew

      i think apples idea is to make a simple no brainer design, then bully everyone out of using similar designs, by doing that they ensure other companies cant go with basic designs

    • aashka shah

      So true, they only sued to stop competition

    • The rounded-corner rectangles are on the icons, not the phone. A more dumb patent to allow, IMHO.

  • Kirby Furgeson talking about the propagation of ideas. I think this argument is answered better with this. Problem is, Samsung probably do not want people to use this against them.

  • Scuffles

    I think that Samsung should still keep making parts for Apple..But charge them double. Thus passing back any costs for Apple’s own litigation..Let Apple pay for it… :-)

    On another note..A hand picked jury in Apple’s own back yard..
    What outcome did you expect..
    Who said the U.S legal system isn’t fair… :-

    • Shani Cochrane

      I suspect that unless Samsung had particularly essential technology for Apple, that Apple would just set up shop with someone else like LG etc.

      • Lord Seth

        At least 85% of the hardware inside an iPhone is from samsung; processor, RAM and other hardware; they make the retina display too.

        Samsung is the one responsible for the low cost of RAM nowadays; basically ALL ram is from samsung nowadays; good luck finding someone else to produce it in top quality, fast and reliably.

  • Alan

    The important thing that every body is not paying attention to is: 2 days back a court in Korea sentenced Apple of infringing Samsung’s rights and patents laws; see Samsung is a Korean company and won the battle at home so this is an important reason for winning apple in U.S; maybe if the Korean court would issue the results later or maybe turning table towards apple, there would be a different result in this one as well… every body knows that apple also used many of other brand’s inventions and patents, how it is possible not to consider those acts ?? I think this kind of battles and their results are more about showing patriotism and defending the name and fame of the countries rather than paying a fare and right attention to the facts… and I do believe that the consumers are the true losers here…

  • Alex13809

    The problem I have with this case Is not that Samsung infinged on some of Apple’s patents. But how in the world they got patents for some of the things in the first place. I mean a pattent on colourful icons and a black rounded rectangle. Are you kidding me….

  • Matt

    So Apple copies the LG Prada and then decides to patent this copied design. Sounds really innovative to me.

  • Rob1003

    This is a sad day for the world but mostly for the US consumer. The rotten fruit has been given leverage to come after other manufacturers now and stamp out all competition. That seems to be their main aim.
    Did each of the jury get a voucher for an iPhone 5 I wonder?

    • Raab

      no, that would be jury tampering. but i can guess with almost certainty that they were all current iPhone users, and not very technologically informed.

  • Why Don’t Everyone Just Go To Hell! Samsung Had It Coming, They Shouldn’t Have Copied Apples Patents Moreover Their New Samsung Galaxy S III Is Nothing But A Total Copy! A Hideous Looking iPhone I Should Say And Producing A Larger Screen Is Not What Makes A Smartphone Original Or Great!

    • tehjoker

      Well said Julian iSheep Obeid! Now go graze some more…

      • Fuck You tehjoker! I Only Say The Truth And The Truth Only Based On Facts. Furthermore Samsung And Their Meaningless Products Aren’t Worth A Purchase; Screw Them For Their Poor Manufacturing Quality! Apple Has Done A Great Job With Their Smartphones And I Surely Mean It! If It Wasn’t For Steve Jobs And Apple Releasing Their First iPhone Back In 2007 Your So Called Smartphones Wouldn’t Have Reached Production Yet! Thus I Can Only Conclude This: ” Every Android Company Especially Samsung Tend To Release More Than One Product To Try And Compete With The iPhone, But Apple Only Releases One Every Year Were They Ultimately Sell A Lot More Than Any Other Company In The Market!”

        • Quryous

          Something Tells Me That This Chapple Has A Problem With His Shift Key. Have You Ever Taken (And Passed) An English Course?

          • tehjoker

            I doubt it lol!!”

        • tehjoker

          Nah -Jobs has bent you over already… and prior to your lovely 2007 iPhone showing Samsung did have touch screens. IPad – ripped off of another company’s prototype… iPhone – yup ripped off 3 other companies phones and mashed into one. As for innovation? What apple innovation? They upgrade 1 part and call it a x+1 phone

          • Oh Really? Steve Jobs Is A Clever And Innovative Man Who Had A Simple Dream: “To Start A Small Business Behind A Small Garage, Which Grew Bigger And Bigger Till It Was Time To Show The World The True Meaning Of Originality”. Your Companies So Called Touchscreens Weren’t Touchscreens At All; They Were Horrible! Which Never Felt Right Nor Did It Seem True And Was Kept Full Of Flaws Till The First Production Of The iPhone, Were Samsung Had No Other Option But To Copy Their Ideas, Their Patents And Anything Else That Could Help Them To Rise To Their Position And Current Standards.

          • tehjoker

            Go graze you isheep till you decide not to spew what you just said and figure out something original to say…

            Still see you can’t use a shift key properly yet too…

          • Raab

            Jobs was clever, I’ll give him that, original idea? not so much. Just because a touchscreen was (as you called it horrible) doesn’t make it less a touchscreen. What Jobs did was take already existing technology that HE, nor Apple ever invented and patented it. These technologies (capacitive touchscreen, multi-touch, pinch to zoom) came out in the early 80’s. They weren’t “invented” by Apple as Jobs claims, he just crammed all those technologies into a phone What Apple did was revolutionary indeed, but the sad fact is, Apple was given patents for things they never should have. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to make a call to patent sugar on my triangle phone.

    • Seth Leonard

      Because hell is reserved for those who can’t type properly.

      • This hasn’t got to do with typing Seth, you Android users always change the subject do you? Trying to distract me from the main point we are discussing? Well ofcourse you do! Moreover people don’t go to hell because they can’t type properly Seth! And Quryous i have taken and passed an English course as a matter of fact. But my shift key seems to be not working properly lately. Gentlemen i’m sorry if i have taken this too far, were all human beings and we all have rights and opinions for sure; and i contradict Apple for this point and point only! I respect your replies and opinions, i can only wish that companies like Apple and Samsung might perhaps stop fighting and work together on making something new and amazing but life is unfair from every corner of the world.

  • Quryous

    The judgment will not stand, at least not as reported. There is too much obvious Jury MISCONDUCT. There may well be NO bans, at least for quite a while.

  • The jury said that

    Design Patent 504,889 was not an infringement on apple designe. The billions of dollars are from the other patent infringements, apple did not get a cent for the rounded edges disput.

  • i think it’s just proof that America’s patent system has become a bit corrupted, this is because it only seems to be in America that apple can come out with this stuff..

    it’s not like “apple”, the strange giant being, came up with this shit.. it’s some intern who at the time was like wouldn’t this be cool if we put this video game code I was messing on in there, look it makes it bounce!

    5 years later apple is pretending to have invested millions of dollars into working out how to get the icons to bounce…