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.
If Apple patented a microwave oven, you could only cook food you bought from the Apple supermarket or else risk damaging the device. If you published a cookbook with recipes Apple didn't like, they would remove your food from the shelves. Lastly, the oven would become obsolete every year.
The fact the the jury were not patent experts and they maintain that the patents still hold will be easy to turn around. Next time get in the experts. What about the five wireless patents that Apple infringed that were disallowed? Does not look fair to someone outside of the US and an ex-Apple customer. Bad publicity for a "socially aware" company will affect the share price, but right now the Wall Street folk are cashing in while they talk up the price. Might follow the Facebook hype route.
Looking at the diagrams in the third patent, and the screen of my Motorola Razr, I can see quite a resemblance. From a distance, one could be the other.
My Razr has icons with transparent backgrounds. Is that enough to keep it from infringing? The signal strength indicator and other indicators are all over on the right on my phone, but spread out on the iPhone. The battery meter is vertical on mine and horizontal on the iPhone.
There is a lot of resemblance and yet a lot of difference. I really don't understand the design patent system well enough to know if those differences are enough to prevent infringement. If they are enough, then there's no reason I can see to design an infringing phone.
Regardless, I think the whole "jumble of icons" interface paradigm is kind of stupid - not that I could do better.
@Code Monkey: I do remember a discussion about a possible litigation about the gas fill behind the license plate. Well, that is a reasonably obsolete practice. So is putting it behind the left tail light with a hidden button.
this case illustrates just one thing: that when the PTO doesn't do its job, the legal system is inadequate to make up for it.
these patents are absurd: non-novel and obvious. at least now we have a case that can serve to overturn the entire current IP racket and bring us back to the root purpose: PROMOTE PROGRESS.
That is an excellent observation Rick. As engineers, most of us deal only with technical patents and really have no understanding of what a design patent is. Also, prior to this trial, I had never heard the phrase "trade dress."
What I think may be just starting to dawn on the engineering community is what a design patent and a trade dress is and that they actually are a part of our US patent system now.
Mock if you will, but it is there. Better to understand it and work with it than get socked with a $1B fine.
Design patents are meant to protect an overall look made up of any number of elements.
I think the iPhone has a distinctive look even though it is not wildly dissimilar to some of the examples of prior art Samsung cited such as the LG Prada.
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