Ludicrous as Apple’s claim to patents as generic as rounded corners may be, it does seem that not all courts of law are convinced that Apple owns everything. A German court has recently ruled in favor of Samsung and Motorola in Apple’s patent infringement lawsuit on the “touch event model.” In essence, the court agreed that Samsung and Motorola do not infringe on Apple’s patents on how the mobile operating system responds to — or ignores — single touch inputs by the user.
The panel presided by Judge Andreas Voss was technically supposed to pass a decision on the Motorola case by August 31 this year, but postponed the decision in order to align the schedule with the separate Samsung case. In the decision, it was agreed that this particular patent was broad enough such that OS functionality will be severely limited if Apple’s interpretation of the patent were to be enforced.
As such, apps that rely on touch (or the lack of it) will no longer run in a stable and reliable manner even if a workaround were to be enforced. This will also require much effort in rewriting, recompiling and reinstallation.
This is different with Apple’s multi-touch gesture patent lawsuit, which Apple is trying to enforce against Samsung devices with the ITC. In that particular case, the ITC will need to pass judgement regarding the so-called “rubber-banding” overscroll and the pinch-to-zoom user interface effects, which have specific gestures involved.
But as FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller says, this cannot be considered a strategic win for Samsung and Motorola, given the other lawsuits in the periphery. He says that “what really gives someone leverage is the ability to win enforceable injunctions based on patents having enough technical scope to be hard to work around without some degradation of the user experience.”
In short, yes, Samsung and Motorola scored a win, but this is not significant enough from the bigger perspective of the Apple vs. Android patent war.
However, apart from Apple’s big win in California in August, this seems to be Apple’s strategy against Samsung and other Android smartphone manufacturers: to sue based on small, detailed functionalities, which would require a manufacturer to devote significant effort in working around.
Thankfully, Android users can still legally use touch-based interaction with phones and apps.