SAN JOSE – The Android community should be very afraid in the wake of Apple’s clear win Friday in its case against Samsung in San Jose’s federal court. Apple is now armed with a handful of proven weapons it can wield against Android competitors in and out of court on the industrial design of its iPhone and the user interface of both the iPhone and iPad.
Android handsets now significantly surpass the iPhone in market share, thanks to the success of HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others. Some market watchers believe Android tablets from Amazon, Google, Samsung and others also will surpass the iPad eventually.
But the court decision suggests a new dynamic that could shift the balance of power and the market direction.
The San Jose jury decided most of the Samsung smartphones in the case infringe three design patents on the iPhone’s industrial design and app screen (D 593,087; D 618, 677 and D 604,305). It also said most of the accused Samsung smartphones and some of its tablets infringe three Apple utility patents (US 7,469,381; US 7,864,163 and US 7,844,915) on the look-and-feel of the software on both the iPhone and iPad.
In addition, the jury said those patents were valid despite Samsung’s attacks using world-class experts showing multiple examples of what it claimed were prior art. The jury also upheld Apple’s claims Samsung handsets violated its registered and unregistered trade dress on the original and 3GS iPhones.
The San Jose jury weakened just one small but significant part of Apple’s case. It said Samsung did not infringe Apple’s design patent on the iPad (D 504,889), suggesting that patent was valid but relatively weak. It also said Apple did not prove its unregistered trade dress on the iPad was protectable.
The net result is Apple now has three proven user interface patents that can attack any Android smartphone or tablet in court or in private negotiations and three strong design patents useful against any iPhone look alike.
“This is a boost for Apple's patent enforcement efforts against Android worldwide,” said Florian Mueller, an expert following the mobile patent wars.
“The rest of the Android ecosystem has just as much of a reason to be concerned about this as Samsung,” Mueller said. “The immediate impact will be limited to Samsung, but Apple has proven its ability to enforce not only its design patents but also its multi-touch software patents in federal court,” he said.
“The verdict also lends credibility to Steve Jobs's characterization of Android as a ‘stolen product,’” he added.
The San Jose decision also is likely to embolden Tim Cook to continue Jobs’ vow to “go thermonuclear” in a patent war against Android backers.