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This Apple Win Should Not Stand

The raging tablet patent war is going very badly for {complink 4751|Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.}. It lost against {complink 379|Apple Inc.} in Australia, and now a German court has barred the sale of its Android Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Although Samsung will likely appeal the ruling, the setback in Germany could delay the company's plans to overtake Apple in the tablet PC market. It also could slow down the adoption of Android by other wireless handset/tablet manufacturers. (See: Brawling OEMs & a Broken Patents System.)

Samsung rivals need to pay attention and not rejoice over its losses so far in the patent war, which has pulled in combatants from all the major wireless handset and tablet markets. The same strategy Apple has used to tie up Samsung in Australia and Europe awaits them, too, because the company has other tablet makers in its sights. It has filed suit against {complink 12925|Motorola Mobility Inc.} in Germany and wants an injunction preventing the sale of the company's Xoom tablet.

Companies like Taiwan's HTC are similarly in the dock in various courts globally as Apple fights to prevent what it alleges is the theft of its designs. The war will play out in many long, drawn-out battles, and it's not clear whether appellate courts will back up Apple's recent victories. What's certain, however, is that the situation is already having a chilling effect on the industry as manufacturers grow concerned about whether they can continue developing products based on Google's Android operating system.

The successful injunction against Samsung's Galaxy is based on Apple's Community Design Patent No. 000181607. Several industry observers have said the patent — if upheld — could prevent other companies from making tablets. After reviewing the design on which Apple is basing its patent defense, I couldn't help but agree that the entire situation is deeply disturbing. (See the images and associated documents here.)

Obviously, the design is similar to many other tablet designs currently in the marketplace. If Apple's latest court victory against Samsung is upheld globally, it should then be applicable against all other manufacturers. In that case, they should simply leave the market to the Cupertino, Calif., company.

Is this really what we want in the marketplace, and is this the purpose patents are meant to serve?

I might be wrong, but it seems wrongheaded that the courts would allow a company to put so many of its competitors out of business on the basis of a generic design concept. If Apple's patent defense is based solely on this or any similar concept, then the entire OEM world should be worried. If the participants in the wireless handset and tablet markets want to gain a competitive advantage, they need to look beyond silly tactical maneuverings.

Apple is already a winner in this sector. It doesn't need the black eye it will likely get from the current patent war.

8 comments on “This Apple Win Should Not Stand

  1. eemom
    August 11, 2011

    I can't help but agree that this is a somewhat dangerous territory.  It is one thing to violate a specific design patent it is totally another to uphold a generic design concept.  Isn't that how monoploys are formed?  As much as I like Apple's products, competition in the industry is what is makes things fair and equitable to the consumer.

    If Samsung and others designed their own competitive tablet without infringing on specific an software patents, I can't see that the US and other countries would prohibit the sale of their products.  Perhaps the current German ruling will be overturned!

  2. _hm
    August 11, 2011

    It is better for Samsung and other vendors to provide with novel ideas in new product introduction. It should not take short cut. There is always better way(From Agilent Instruments). Also, as major vendor to Apple, Samsung must be very careful in new product that competes with Apple.

  3. Eldredge
    August 11, 2011

    It is difficult to determine this early in the process how all the cases will work out, but if Apple is succeedn so well in the courts thus far, they must have some standing in their favor. Itis the express purpose of a patent to provide a limited time monopoly to the inventor of a process or article of manufacture in exchange for full disclosure of the best mode of the invention. This is intended to encourage investmetn in development, as well as provide for more rapdi and productive progress.

  4. Eldredge
    August 11, 2011

    As fas as the breadth of the design concept is concerned, if the claims in the patent are too broad in that they are not supported by the disclosure of the best mode of the invention in the patent, or if they read on the claims from other patents, they cna be successfully challenegd in court. Otherwise, if the claims are novel and non-obvious, and do not infringe another patent, they are valid. If someone else cannot challenge the claims on the basis of infringement, novelty, and obviousness, then the inventor is entitled to the breadth of claims put forth.

  5. Houngbo_Hospice
    August 11, 2011

    Apple is being given too much power that will likely discourage competions in the tablets and smartphones market. But we can just expect the patents suits to continue for several years as variety of rival smartphone makers will challenge the suits.

  6. FLYINGSCOT
    August 12, 2011

    I enjoyed this article and will read the details of the patent over the weekend.  I do agree that it might not serve anyone (except Apple) to effectively let Apple create a monopoly on tablets.  It is much better having healthy competition considering Apple has also had a good headstart capturing market share already. 

  7. Nemos
    August 12, 2011

    “Is this really what we want in the marketplace, and is this the purpose patents are meant to serve?”

    It is more than clear that Apple tries to avoid the same mistake as did it at 80s with the PC. And it is a very proper decision to go its rivals to the court because they copy its product (monkey products). However, it is wrong to use loopholes in the patent's law and with this way trying to kill the Android platform and to dominate in the tablet market.

  8. hwong
    August 19, 2011

    Samsung is gaining traction in Asia where they are providing free internet in many places if you use the Samsung tablet. IT's going to be a fierce market out there soon.

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