What Samsung will try to prove in the U.S. patent case against Apple

by: Chris SmithJuly 26, 2012

It looks like the summer will be very hot when it comes to patent disputes, with the main attraction of this circus show being the Apple vs Samsung battle that’s just about to start in the U.S., the largest market for mobile devices, and hence, the most important one for both parties.

Just a few days ago we heard that Apple is asking for $2.525 billion in damages and royalties from the South Korean company, although it would rather choose injunctions against infringing products. The same company is willing to pay just half a cent to Samsung for the alleged 3G patent violations from iPhone and iPad models that make use of the wireless technology.

And just earlier today we heard that Apple was granted another pre-trial win in the U.S. case, an “adverse inference jury instruction,” which basically means the jury will have to consider that Samsung intentionally failed to provide certain evidence to Apple, as it intentionally or unintentionally destroyed it – automatically deleted emails between Samsung execs regarding the design changes of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 from initial announcement to launch.

Samsung’s Defense

Now it’s time to look at Samsung’s defense and attack strategies against Apple’s allegations. In its trial brief, the Android maker suggests that Apple’s patent infringement allegations are wrong and that Samsung has came up with similar iPhone-like devices long before the iPhone was announced, and therefore it has not copied Apple designs.

Moreover, the company also reiterates that Apple is using 3G technology from Samsung, which the iPhone maker failed to license under FRAND terms that Samsung offers to all major players in the business.

Here are some relevant quotes from Samsung’s brief, as presented by The Wall Street Journal:

Samsung has been researching and developing mobile telecommunications technology since at least as early as 1991 and invented much of the technology for today‘s smartphones. Indeed, Apple, which sold its first iPhone nearly twenty years after Samsung started developing mobile phone technology, could not have sold a single iPhone without the benefit of Samsung‘s patented technology.


For good measure, Apple seeks to exclude Samsung from the market, based on its complaints that Samsung has used the very same public domain design concepts that Apple borrowed from other competitors, including Sony, to develop the iPhone. Apple‘s own internal documents show this. In February 2006, before the claimed iPhone design was conceived of, Apple executive Tony Fadell circulated a news article that contained an interview of a Sony designer to Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and others. In the article, the Sony designer discussed Sony portable electronic device designs that lacked “excessive ornamentation” such as buttons, fit in the hand, were “square with a screen” and had “corners [which] have been rounded out.”


Also contrary to Apple‘s accusations, Samsung does not need or want to copy; rather, it strives to best the competition by developing multiple, unique products. Samsung internal documents from 2006, well before the iPhone was announced, show rectangular phones with rounded corners, large displays, flat front faces, and graphic interfaces with icons with grid layouts.


Prior to the iPhone‘s announcement in January 2007, Samsung was already developing numerous products and models with the same design features that Apple now claims were copied from the iPhone. In the summer of 2006, Samsung began designing its next generation of mobile phones, based on the market trend of ever-increasing screen size. At that time, Samsung‘s designers envisioned a basic design: a simple, rounded rectangular body dominated by a display screen with a single physical button on the face.


Apple‘s utility patents relate to ancillary features that allow users to perform trivial touch screen functions, even though these technologies were developed and in widespread use well before Apple entered the mobile device market in 2007. Samsung does not infringe any of Apple‘s patents and has located dead-on prior art that invalidates them.


Apple relied heavily on Samsung‘s technology to enter the telecommunications space, and it continues to use Samsung‘s technology to this day in its iPhone and iPad products. For example, Samsung supplies the flash memory, main memory, and application processor for the iPhone. . . . But Apple also uses patented Samsung technology that it has not paid for. This includes standards-essential technology required for Apple‘s products to interact with products from other manufacturers, and several device features that Samsung developed for use in its products.


Long before Apple even announced any of its 3G products that use Samsung‘s standards-essential technology, Samsung had offered licenses for these patents (along with other patents) to virtually every major player in the mobile phone industry, successfully striking cross-licensing deals with all of them. After Apple released products that use the technology patented in the [two standards-essential patents at issue in the trial], Samsung similarly offered a cross-licensing deal to Apple, asking for a fair and reasonable royalty in return for Apple‘s use of Samsung‘s technology. Unlike all the major players in the mobile phone industry, however, Apple refused to enter a cross-licensing deal with Samsung.

Instead, despite the fact that virtually every other major industry participant was willing to take a license from Samsung for use of the standards-essential patents in this suit, Apple claimed that Samsung‘s patents are unenforceable.

Samsung is clearly going to fight Apple as best it can to avoid injunctions or settlements that will hurt the company, both when it comes to the money it would owe Apple but also when it comes to its image.

Some of the arguments above has been heard before, just like Apple’s claims, and it will be interesting to see what jurors will think of the whole legal predicament.

The Battle of the Images

However, the fact does remain that until the iPhone came along, Samsung was not the number one smartphone maker in the world. At the same time, neither of its touchscreen-only devices became hit products. The Galaxy S, responsible for the current Android revolution at Samsung, hit stores only in 2010, three years after the iPhone was launched.

This is not to say Samsung is infringing on Apple patents, or that Apple will win this one. But Samsung will have a tough battle ahead, especially since it has lost more pre-trial battles than Apple. Depending on what company you side with, you may use on of the following images to make your case against the other.

The first one shows us how Samsung handsets looked like before and Apple’s iPhone. So does that mean Samsung stole the design of the iPhone? 

Image Credit: TodayILearned

Let’s not forget that Apple was recently awarded a patent that pretty much explains how a post-iPhone smartphone or tablet works, and which is already seen as a dangerous weapon against Android.

Image Credit: AllThingsD

The second one shows us that Samsung had iPhone-like devices in mind before the iPhone hit stores in 2007. But then how will Samsung respond to the obvious question: why weren’t any of them a best-selling device capable to take Samsung to the top of the mobile business, a business that was unquestionably dominated by Nokia at the time?

Sure, Android OS was not available at the time, and if it was, some folks will say Google was more partial to a BlackBerry-like device design than touchcreen-based handsets.

More recently, Samsung was rumored to have designed the Galaxy S3 in collaboration with its legal team to avoid any potential attacks from Apple, and it has now started to remove the global search features of the phone as a pre-emptive measure against Apple – the iPhone maker used the ‘unified search’ to obtain an injunction in the U.S. against the Galaxy Nexus smartphone also made by Samsung.

Speaking of Android, Samsung can be considered, from one point of view, a collateral victim of Apple’s thermonuclear war on Google’s mobile operating system – and Android is targeted by plenty of other companies for alleged patent infringement, but that’s an entirely other story.

What’s clear is that the two companies will settle at some point in the near future, whatever that means for the mobile business. And even if their future deal will be protected by non-disclosure agreements, it will be pretty easy for smartphone and tablet users to observe the effects that this deal will have on future products.

  • Peterson Silva

    “At the same time, neither of its touchscreen-only devices became hit products.”

    Hum, it doesn’t matter. Their simply existing already makes the whole copying accusation fall apart!

    “why weren’t any of them a best-selling device capable to take Samsung to the top of the mobile business,”

    Samsung didn’t have the marketing power to make such a trend become so obvious. This means that Apple was successful, but you’ve got to pay the price for being a solid trendsetter (setter, not creator): people will go your way. You’ve got to keep pushing if you want to stay ahead. Apple wants to stay ahead by not allowing anyone to do anything that resembles what Apple is doing, even though everybody started out pretty much the same….

    • Gincredible D

      “Apple wants to stay ahead by not allowing anyone to do what Apple is doing..”

      Priceless, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m new to Android, yet, I’m starting to feel like I’m probably going to be stuck using Android for the rest of my mobile phone career solely on the fact that innovation seems to be the driving force behind Google’s whole methodology of Android. It’s about making your life easier without the added arrogance of “That’s my toy, I had it first”. How else are we going to move forward if these punks keep pulling us back to the dark ages on a whole bunch of stupid ass infringement lawsuits.

  • TechBug

    Excellent comment, SIlva!

    Regarding, “..Samsung.. a collateral victim of..”, well, yes, it looks like this but
    let not forget that Samsung has been making more money from this (direct money) than Google. Hardware produces are paying lawyers but the have made real money as well. The benefit for Google has been only indirect, dominance in the Search, ads, etc.
    Thanks for the great posts!

  • Perry Ahern

    Samsung seems to use a “throw a lot of designs out there and see what sticks” approach. The phones in the left half of the second image show many styles both before and after the iPhone was released. There are devices with square and rounded corners both before and after it was released, and one after release even is very oval in shape. That’s not copying – that’s offering consumers a wide variety of choices and following their lead based on sales results.

  • Kindroid

    This Apple design patent is bullshit. Rectangular device with a flat screen with icons on it. I had a Palm Pilot in 1997 that didn’t look much different from the Apple iPhone. Even an idiot recognizes there are only so many ways to implement the design of a smartphone. But then we are dealing with Apple here. If Samsung had copied the iPhone EXACTLY…the Apple would have a point. There is no chance of a potential buyer mistaking, or buying a Samsung phone over an Apple phone. Why do you ask? From day one Samsung had put their name on the phone. SAMSUNG. Again only a blind idiot could mistake the Samsung device for the Apple. If fact that should be the test. Put them in the hands of a blind person….and see if there are any differences.

  • I think Android was a shock for Apple because suddenly “everybody” were buying Android product. And everybody know how bullies are, when they loose attention they try to get it by hurting even more

  • joey

    the only reason judge Koh decided with apple is that so she can get publicity and hoping will make her famous….iBitch !

  • Gincredible D

    Lets just hope the jury isnt as deluded most people nowadays

  • dynadom

    To think that the shape of the phone means one copied the other is moronic. Android was the game changer that allowed Samsung to create a proper phone slate. Which incidently looks like the iPhone but there are many other devices that the iPhone could have copied that looks that way before it.