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Apple in a Bind as Courts Wrangle Over Patents

I am at a loss on how to spin this. {complink 379|Apple Inc.} has found itself proclaiming something contrary to what it has been fighting so hard to prove these last couple of years. Namely, that rival {complink 4751|Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.} violated one of its key patents.

Apparently, even Apple is not sure how to spin the story. and — in a single public statement — affirmed Samsung did and did not infringe the same patent.

How did Apple contort itself into such a weird position? The company was compelled to post a statement on its UK Website declaring Samsung's innocence after the UK Court of Appeal upheld a lower court's ruling that “Samsung Electronic (UK) Limited’s Galaxy Tablet Computer, namely the Galaxy Tab 10.1, Tab 8.9 and Tab 7.7 do not infringe Apple’s registered design No. 0000181607-0001.” Apple even provided links to both the lower court's ruling, as well as that of the appeal court. Samsung's “registered design is not the same as the design of the iPad,” the court of appeal said.

As Apple noted in its statement, “the ruling has effect throughout the European Union.” That should clear things up, right? No. In that same statement, Apple pointed out that a German court ruled in its favor on the same patent, and a California jury awarded it more than $1 billion in damages. Apple goes further:

However, in a case tried in Germany regarding the same patent, the court found that Samsung engaged in unfair competition by copying the iPad design. A U.S. jury also found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design and utility patents, awarding over one billion U.S. dollars in damages to Apple Inc. So while the U.K. court did not find Samsung guilty of infringement, other courts have recognized that in the course of creating its Galaxy tablet, Samsung willfully copied Apple's far more popular iPad.

I haven't found my way out of this maze. I believe many European countries must share this dilemma, except I only have to write about the development and point out how murky the entire technology patent environment has become, while the EU states must enforce conflicting rulings. What will German law enforcement officials do to satisfy a foreign court-issued ruling — with Europe-wide implications — that contradicts one from a local court?

And the US ruling in Apple's favor? Even that is fraying at the edges. One of the key patents relied upon by the jury that found Samsung in violation of Apple's patents in the California ruling has now been temporarily invalidated by the US Patent and Trademark Office after a second review. Naturally, Samsung is including this ruling — which may still be overturned after further review — in its appeal hearing. So far, Apple hasn't been able to collect its $1 billion award, or even get the Samsung products off the market.

Isn't it time these two companies got together for some serious discussions that will hopefully end this charade?

40 comments on “Apple in a Bind as Courts Wrangle Over Patents

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    October 26, 2012

    These cases are always confusing and that is why the lawyers drive Bentleys.  Unfortunately the tech companies just budget for these actions and drag everything out as long as possible.

  2. Ashu001
    October 26, 2012

    FlyingScot,

    Lol!!!

    Wish I could add in more stuff.

    I just want to point out this fact-DC has more pages of Lawyers then Electricians and Plumbers combined(in its Phone Directory)!!!

    If that does'nt tell you what so very wrong with the American Economy today;nothing will.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  3. bolaji ojo
    October 26, 2012

    Well put.

  4. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    As suggested by you Bolaji, it is time that both companies should sit together and solve the problem. An Alternate Dispute Resolution committee should be formed and Samsung should pay some % of the billion dollar claim and gain a right to market its galaxy note in all regions. It is more about an ego issue currently rather than core business reason.

  5. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    This law doesn't sound doing any justice to any company. It is a method to launch a war against your business opponent. So what I'd a design has been copied. Companies have enough designers to make a new design as well. The competition will not stop if designs are stopped being copied. I don't think this would happen but I recommend that patent laws are reconsidered themselves.

  6. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    Well said Ashish. Corporate lawyers are just making money out of the cases. I won't say that companies should stop filing cases but they should save energy for building their brands and fighting only for fundamental matters.

  7. Ashu001
    October 27, 2012

    Bolaji,

    Great Blog Post!!!

    I just had one thought in my head. Why can't Both Apple and Samsung Kiss and Make up here?

    They have already poured so many Valuable company Resources into these Legal Battles. Where does it end?

    Why not just sit down and talk everything Man to Man???

    Everybody(and especially Company Shareholders) would be so much happier if they were just talking to each other in a non-confrontational mode.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  8. Ashu001
    October 27, 2012

    Waqas,

    Easier said than Done. Given that its the Same Lawyers who are advising the Head Honchos of most of these Big Firms today!!!

    They know perfectly well where their Bread is Buttered.

    No way are they gonna do anything to sabotage it.

    Most unlikely.

    Regards

    Ashish.

  9. Wale Bakare
    October 27, 2012

    One thing is missing – common sense! These high tech firms have totally outmanouvered by these lawyers. Why would they fall easily to their tricks and irrational media cast over patents infringment? Like i said sometimes – sorting out this unuseful fights to the benefits of few, they should settle it without lawyers' involvement.

  10. _hm
    October 27, 2012

    Apple need to innovate more and may be quicker. This is best way to prove it is leader and most innovative organization. Samsung will as usual follow copy Apple innovations.

     

  11. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    @ Wale

    Actually the wars are not irrational nor are these big companies' executives so innocent to fall into the lawyers' trap. There is a financial benefit involved if the company files and wins the case; if it looses, the cost is not very high unless the defendant files a counter case. 

    If cases are filed, due to legal complexities, the companies cannot fight it out on their own; lawyers are needed.

  12. Wale Bakare
    October 27, 2012

    Right from the beginning – both should have opted to settle this matter without going to courts. Do you ever think this would put a permanent stop to patents fights in technlogy industry?

  13. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    @ Wale I won't say that this would bring an end to the fights but certainly this agreement (if it happens) will be seen as an example in the technology industry and future disputes will be dealt in the like manner.

  14. ITempire
    October 27, 2012

    There is a question. Do you think that such disputes are beneficial for the users as they give rise to the competition or there are no implications for the users?

  15. bolaji ojo
    October 27, 2012

    WaqasAltaf, The direct answer to your question is that these patent disputes are not in the interest of consumers. Many companies are locked in fear because they are worried patent trolls will come after them at the faintest whiff of a patent violation. Many of such alleged patent violations are so vague any firm could fall victim. In fact, just the threat of lawsuit alone is enough to halt production of some products.

  16. bolaji ojo
    October 27, 2012

    Wale, I don't believe this will end these patents battles. It's become too lucrative.

  17. bolaji ojo
    October 27, 2012

    WaqasAltaf, You are right. These lawsuits are not being driven by lawyers. The companies are happy to go to court, believing their argument would convince a jury or judge and result in the achievement of their objectives, whatever those may be.

  18. Anand
    October 28, 2012

    Isn't it time these two companies got together for some serious discussions that will hopefully end this charade?

    @Bolaji, thanks for the post. I strongly feel that both the companies should discuss this and this matter but unfortunately the current competition in smartphone/Tablet market is so intense that neither of the companies would like to concede defeat.

  19. Anand
    October 28, 2012

    Do you think that such disputes are beneficial for the users as they give rise to the competition or there are no implications for the users?

    @WaqasAltaf, In my opinion such disputes are not beneficial for the end users because single company will have monopoly over the market and thus the price competition will disappear. Moreover there are mixed opinion on whether Samsung really violated any Apple IP, so in the end its all matter of perception.

  20. ITempire
    October 28, 2012

    @ anandvy

    In my opinion such disputes are not beneficial for the end users because single company will have monopoly over the market and thus the price competition will disappear

    Well I think such disputes are good for the market as a whole as competition exists when the disputes get stronger. Companies (opponents in courts) try to throw out each other off the market by many strategies only surely being price cut downs. Too much harmony among companies mean that they agree to maintain higher prices and end-user suffers.

  21. Anand
    October 28, 2012

    Too much harmony among companies mean that they agree to maintain higher prices and end-user suffers.

    @WaqasAltaf, I am not saying companies should exist in harmony, all I am saying the competition should be genuine. For example in case of Apple Vs Samsung the fight is not about technical features but about the looks of the device. I dont think this is real compeitition.

  22. ITempire
    October 28, 2012

    @ Anandvy

    “For example in case of Apple Vs Samsung the fight is not about technical features but about the looks of the device. I dont think this is real compeitition.”

    Agreed. This whole design patent law is not logical to me. 

    As far as the battle betwen Apple and Samsung is concerned, it is also a battle of ego where each company, esp Apple, is trying to maintain a status quo. $1 billion dollar compensation demand is not about gaining justice but it is about harming your competitor.

  23. Taimoor Zubar
    October 29, 2012

    It's utterly confusing to see the two companies fight over the same case and have different verdicts in different countries. I agree that the laws differ from country to country but this does not make sense. If Apple wants to sue Samsung, they'll look to sue them in a country that they think will favor their point of view. There has to be a global resolution to this issue.

  24. Taimoor Zubar
    October 29, 2012

    The companies are happy to go to court, believing their argument would convince a jury or judge and result in the achievement of their objectives, whatever those may be.”

    @Bolaji: Even if the companies aren't getting any monetary benefits out of the lawsuits, they're hoping to defame the competitors by their actions and aiming to hurt the reputation of the other. This seems to be the real objective to me.

  25. Houngbo_Hospice
    October 29, 2012

    @WaqasAltaf,

    “This whole design patent law is not logical to me.”

    That is for the courts to decide, right? Based on the recent “Samsung/Apple UK judgement”, we can notice that the judges are impartial in their ruling – at least outside the U.S.

  26. Anna Young
    October 29, 2012

    I agree. I think the disputes between Apple and Samsung will certainly continue. At least it's benefiting the legal teams.

  27. Anna Young
    October 29, 2012

     

     TaimoorZ, I understand your point. But what's your suggestion on a global resolution to Apple and Samsung ongoing patent war?

  28. Taimoor Zubar
    October 30, 2012

    @Anna: One of the ways to resolve this would be to settle the dispute in the country of origin where both the companies were incorporated. Unfortunately, that's not applicable in this case because Apple was formed in the US and Samsung in Korea. Perhaps some expert in law can suggest how to go about with a global resolution of this patent issue. 

  29. Anna Young
    October 30, 2012

    TaimoorZ, thoughtful suggestion but I doubt whether global resolution is the key. Legal experts may be required to make the complicated patents law simpler, but at this stage they are not obviously  keen. The lawsuits is currently enriching the pockets of both companies legal teams. I think the only end to this saga lies between Apple and Samsung's top management. They need to call a truce. Until then the story continue.

  30. ITempire
    October 30, 2012

    @ Hospice

    “That is for the courts to decide, right?”

    Yes that is true. It was just my personal opinion. I feel that design is not a very complex thing to make in today's times where product designers can use all kinds of computer-assisted design techniques and it does not make a difference if designs are similar or not; the features have to be competitive. If the design patent law doesnt exist, will Apple's revenue be affected if Samsung copies the design? Whether Samsung alters the design or not is immaterial; customers will only be attracted to features rather than similarity of looks to Apple's device.

  31. bolaji ojo
    October 30, 2012

    Obviously this case won't be decided by the court system. The rulings so far have been as varied as the number of smartphones in the market. The companies must resolve this by talking to each and other and negotiating an agreement. They may be going ahead with court actions to improve their individual negotiation leverage.

  32. bolaji ojo
    October 30, 2012

    I'm sure there are numerous motives for the lawsuits and that one of the key reasons is to, as you say, “defame” the competitor. How well is that working for the two parties? I think they are at a deadlock right now and may have to start talking.

  33. hash.era
    October 31, 2012

    talking will not help Ojo their stratergy should be changed from the scratch itself.

  34. Taimoor Zubar
    October 31, 2012

    “I think the only end to this saga lies between Apple and Samsung's top management. They need to call a truce”

    @Anna: Since it has now become a matter of pride for both the parties, I don't think that's gonna happen now. None of the two would take a backward stance at this point.

  35. Mr. Roques
    October 31, 2012

    I believe this should be taken to a higher instance. Someone in the Government should look into this before it gets uncontrollable (are we there yet?). 

    Companies are buying each other, only for patents… this will lead nowhere.

  36. Anna Young
    October 31, 2012

     I understand your point Taimoorz.  But I still think  Apple and Samsung will have to swallow their prides and resume dialogues. We've seen variations on court's ruling; it has not resolved the case.

  37. Anna Young
    October 31, 2012

    Mr.Roques, I understand this patent law suits will lead nowhere, but what do you suggest the Government can offer?

  38. bolaji ojo
    October 31, 2012

    Government can (and is trying to) reform patent laws. The system isn't working very well right now and should be improved. In the meantime, it's left to the courts to sort out the wrangling while consumers will eventually find a way to reward the innovators rather than the ones taking advantage of the system without offering that much in innovation and noticeable product improvement.

  39. Barbara Jorgensen
    November 1, 2012

    Bolaji does a great job of pointing out how convoluted this whole battle is and that it is now impossible to derive any conclusion from this mixed bag. At some point, I'd like to read each ruling so that I understand whether these decisions are being made as a point of law (interpreting patent laws correctly) or whether Apple or Samsung makes the better argument in court. These decisions do have implications for both patent law and the legal system as well as each business. But if it continues on like this, there will be no winner, loser or value to be taken from this whole mess. Enough already!

  40. Ariella
    November 1, 2012

    UK ruling an extra slap on the wrist for Apple: (Reuters) – Apple must re-write a statement posted on its website acknowledging that Samsung did not infringe on its registered designs for tablet computers, and place it more prominently on its homepage, a court in the UK ruled on Thursday.

    The statement was deemed to be “non-compliant” with the order in a previous High Court judgment that concluded Samsung's Galaxy tablet did not infringe Apple's designs, in part because its products were “not as cool”.

     

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