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Final ruling is still pending; Judge believes that Samsung infringes, but Apple's patents are questionable

For the world's largest phonemaker and world's largest Android phonemaker, Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930) some good news finally came in its lawsuit war [1][2][3][4] [5][6][7] with Apple, Inc. (AAPL). After seeing its flagship Galaxy Tab 10.1 banned from sale in Germany (on the grounds of design patent infringements) and in Australia (on the grounds of technology patent infringements) it has scored an early victory in arguably its most important court battle in the U.S.

I. U.S. Federal Judge to Apple: No Injunction for You!

On Thursday, Judge Lucy H. Koh, a justice in the Northern District Californian federal court, denied Apple's request to ban sales of Samsung's product for now, on one of its four patent claims.

Specifically Judge Koh commented that an injunction was not warranted based on Apple's sole technology patent in the case, U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381.  She called her decision on the patent, which covers document scrolling "tentative" and said she would issue a final ruling "fairly promptly".  She comments, "It took a long time to make that distinction"

Reuters' court reporter writes that the judge commented that she felt Samsung did infringe on Apple's patents, though the report does not clarify whether she indicated which patents she felt were infringed -- the three design patents, or the sole technology patent.  On the other hand, the report says the judge complained that Apple is having problems establishing the validity of its patents.

II. Apple's List Scrolling Patent and Samsung's Violation

The technology patent by Apple claims ownership to temporarily displaying a non-active region to a document, such as a webpage or list, when scrolling, zooming, or rotating.  Our testing indicates that in Android 2.3 Gingerbread -- the OS on the Galaxy S smartphone named in the suit -- that such a capability is indeed present in some places.

In the Gallery app when you scroll downward part of a black empty row is shown when you reach the end of the list of pictures and keeps scrolling.  When you release, the list bounced back to the last row.  

Android Gingerbread Gallery App
Samsung/Google's "slavish" infringement [Gallery App]
This scrolling feature is not found, based on our testing, on webpages in the built in browser.  However, a similar feature -- also covered by Apple's patent -- is present.  When you zoom out, you will see gray around your webpage when you reach the edges of the document.  Releasing the zoom pinch will bounce the document back to full screen, as mentioned in the Apple patent.

Browser App Gingerbread
Samsung/Google's "slavish" infringement [Browser App]

This patent seems relatively obvious in that it basically covers an animation and if GUI animations were broadly patentable video games as we know them couldn't exist today, software would be litigated into oblivion, and the web would be a ghost town.  That said Samsung will need to follow the path of obviousness and invalidate Apple's patent in court, as it clearly does use the animation technique covered in this patent.  

If Samsung cannot do that for some reason, it should be relatively trivial to remove this feature as the animation does not significantly improve the Android experience in our opinion.

(As a technical note it is operating system maker Google, Inc. (GOOG) who created the infringing design, but Samsung uses Google's OS so is being sued by proxy.)

III. Apple's Design Patents

Now that Judge Koh has tentatively denied Apple's motion for a preliminary injunction regarding the utility patent, the question becomes what she will do when it comes to the design patents -- U.S. Design Patent No. D618,677D593,087, and D504,889.

The first two patents cover the design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone (original), respectively.

The validity of these patents could be question mainly from the perspective of Apple's broad application of them.

Below we have diagrammed the differences between the iPhone designs and Samsung's Galaxy S, which Apple claims "slavishly" copied the iPhone.  Specifically note that the folowing features are different:
  1. Button count and placement
  2. Connectors
  3. Side profile of phone (note the lip on Samsung's design)
  4. Size of screen and general phone size.
  5. Logo/name placement on body
Smart Phone Comparison

Similar differences can be found between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the iPad, an early version of which is covered in the final patent.  We've detail these differences between the patent, the actual iPad, and the Galaxy Tab 10. below, which include:
  1. Only Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a camera (compared to the original iPad).
  2. The thickness in the design patent doesn't match the thickness of the iPad or Galaxy Tab (please measure this in an imaging software, in pixels, if you don't believe us).
  3. Bezel sizes don't match between any of the three designs.
  4. Connectors and buttons on the side are different.
  5. Screen sizes and aspect ratios are different.
  6. Only the iPad has a home button.
  7. All tablets are clearly and unambiguously branded.
  8. The back color doesn't match.
Tablet comparison

Really when you look carefully from an artistic perspective (presumably the criteria for merit on a design patent) in both the tablet and smartphone cases the biggest visual similarities are simply the general form factor (thin rectangles) and the color scheme.  In this sense the devices are somewhat similar in looks.

There was a bit of court room drama that's gathered much attention in which Judge Koh held up the Tab and iPad and asked Samsung's lawyer Kathleen Sullivan to identify her company's product.  Ms. Sullivan reportedly could not tell them apart at that distance (it was unclear if Judge Koh was covering the iPad's home screen button).

At that point Judge Koh asked, "Can any of Samsung's lawyers tell me which one is Samsung and which one is Apple?"

At that point one of Samsung's other lawyers finally coughed up the correct response.

While the incident was certainly humorous, it's important to not put too much weight in such court room drama, lest it leads one to misleading conclusions.  One need only remember the controversial O.J. Simpson/Johnny Cochrane "if the glove doesn't fit" showmanship to realize that.

While the designs are somewhat similar in a very general sense, it seems a slippery slope to grant Apple broad ownership of such a design for two reasons.  First, it would create ambiguity of exactly how broad Apple's design ownership is.  Second, it would essentially grant a monopoly on the state of the art smart phone and tablet form factor to Apple.  

Given the radical differences in the designs, it would seem if the designs are found to "infringe" that only Apple can make thin rectangular smart phones and tablets.  This kind of ruling could have a catastrophic effect on many emerging electronics markets.  After all, if this kind of standard was applied to the PC industry, Dell, Inc. (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) could be suing each other and Apple for copying each others' "general form factor".

Clearly this kind of broad design ownership hasn't been granted in other electronics markets, so it seems doubtful that Judge Koh will rule this way.  But stranger things have happened.

IV. Looking Ahead

In the U.S. patent battle, a final ruling on the preliminary injunction request with respect to all patents will soon be issued.  Given the pressure from wireless carriers Verizon Communications, Inc. (VZ) and Deutsche Telekom AG's (ETR:DTE) T-Mobile USA [1][2], and Judge Koh's previous statements, it seems likely that Apple's request will be denied.

The question then will become whether Samsung can successfully invalidate Apple's patents, or at least escape a design infringement ruling (as the utility patent's infring features could easily be removed).  Also pertinent is whether Samsung can succeed in its counter claim, which sues Apple on the grounds of infringing on many of its 3G communications patents.

There's also been recent action in the Netherlands and Australian arenas, we will update you on this shortly.

Source: Reuters

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RE: Missing the point
By Tony Swash on 10/16/2011 9:28:31 AM , Rating: 0


So what is 'bullshit' then? Can you explain how Apple, in any remotely possible scenario, could use the courts to stop it's competitors from making competing products forever?

The moment the companies who are copying Apple's designs stop copying those designs that the subject of any of the legal cases those legal actions will come to an end. It's that simple.

RE: Missing the point
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/16/2011 12:07:07 PM , Rating: 3
You keep saying that they are copying, it's quite obvious by now, they aren't. Dimensions, specs, are different, that by definition, is not copying. You are a seriously disillusion individual. It's that simple.

RE: Missing the point
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/16/2011 12:12:48 PM , Rating: 2
Also, using words such as "pithy", doesn't make you any more intelligent or special. But, I think you may be special in other ways.

RE: Missing the point
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/16/2011 1:22:58 PM , Rating: 2
Also, you just assume Apple is going to win, but I don't think so. Maybe, just maybe, you will get Steve's head out of your ass when they lose.

RE: Missing the point
By Tony Swash on 10/16/2011 1:18:09 PM , Rating: 1
I think that it's very obvious to anyone other than those gripped by debilitating phobia that the phone and tablet designs of company's like Samsung have been developed to look like and follow the design lead of Apple. To argue that Samsung would have developed its tablet or phone offerings to look and function as they do without the iPhone and the iPad is just silly.

The question is this: is the degree of copying, or emulation or trend following or whatever you want to call it that Samsung has done in relation to Apple products legitimate or not?

You say it is legitimate. I say it is probably not.

Surely the only way to decide this is through legal process?

If Apple's claims broadly lack substance then I would expect the courts to broadly dismiss them. It's hypothetically possible even if Apple's claims are wrong that a court somewhere might make a bad decision and uphold them, but unless one is gripped by some sort of paranoid delusion it is simply not conceivable that if Apple's claims lacked substance that a significant number of legal systems in different counties around the world would all make the same mistake and uphold them.

Let's test all these claims, both Apple's and Samsung's, in as many courts as possible and let's live with the outcome.

By the way it's not Apple that will cripple Android with legal claims it's Oracle. And that case does not look good for Google at the moment. If Oracle wins it may mean an immediate world wide ban on all Android devices until Googles agrees to pay punitive damages and licence fees to Oracle. Now that is a show stopper of a legal case.

RE: Missing the point
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/16/2011 1:31:09 PM , Rating: 2
debilitating phobia
You keep repeating that, I don't think people are phobic. I think you are just insane and it's quite obvious.

RE: Missing the point
By Tony Swash on 10/16/2011 2:52:41 PM , Rating: 2
You keep repeating that, I don't think people are phobic. I think you are just insane and it's quite obvious.

I am insane because I suggest the best way to resolve all this through due process of law? If that's not the way to resolve it then what is the alternative?

I say that many of the commentators around here are phobic because they are. People who fear and dislike Apple and for whom nothing Apple does is good or justified and everything any of Apple's competitors do is OK. hence the endlessly repeated absurdity that Samsung hasn't copied Apple in it's product design when to any neutral observer it is absolutely obvious that they have.

RE: Missing the point
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/16/2011 3:25:04 PM , Rating: 3
No matter how many times you say they copied Apple, doesn't make it true. And again, because YOU say people are phobic, and keep repeating it, doesn't make it true. Insane. Absolutely insane you are.

RE: Missing the point
By Reclaimer77 on 10/16/2011 8:27:06 PM , Rating: 2
To argue that Samsung would have developed its tablet or phone offerings to look and function as they do without the iPhone and the iPad is just silly.

Dude wtf? Without Samsung there wouldn't even BE iPads. Who do you think spent BILLIONS in the R&D and manufacturing of the touch screens and CPU/GPU chips that go into iPads and iPhones? It sure as hell wasn't Apple.

The question is this: is the degree of copying, or emulation or trend following or whatever you want to call it that Samsung has done in relation to Apple products legitimate or not?

Wrong question. The question is are Apple's vague and completely generic and obvious patents legitimate.

I notice you consistently avoid that question which is the real crux of the entire issue. If we allow companies to obtain patents that creates monopolies or uncompetitive practices, that goes totally against the reason we have patents in the first place.

I would sure like to know how in the hell someone can possibly make a tablet that anyone would even want to use without "infringing" on these bogus patents. How about a big round tablet with a touch-pad and mouse pointer, because god forbid anyone make a rectangular pad with GUI touch gestures. I'm sure that would go over GREAT with everyone. Oh and it better not be black either, cause you know, Apple invented that too. /sarcasm

But you don't care. You honestly want to see Apple being the ONLY mobile electronics supplier on the planet. That's what is so scarey about you. You're either a completely insane moron, or highly personally/financially invested in Apple's success. Either option is terrible.

RE: Missing the point
By testerguy on 10/17/2011 12:05:55 PM , Rating: 2
Oh please. Citing a manufacturer and saying that if it wasn't for the manufacturer of SOME parts of a WORLD first product, the product wouldn't exist, is ridiculous.

Taking it even further, and claiming that because they invested in R&D of some random parts of the device that they somehow would have created the entire design themselves, or have a right to recreate it? Worse than ridiculous.

If you claim that the question isn't whether Samsung copied or not, then you realise why Apple has a case to put forward. You're basically saying they did copy, but does it matter?

The answer could well be yes, and all Tony is saying is that the legal system will decide, I don't see any problems with that.

You say a pad can't be made without infringing the patents? That's ridiculous. Apple isn't suing every company who made pads, they are suing Samsung for BLATANTLY, and I really mean Blatantly, copying their whole range, from iPod to iPhone to iPad. The fact that the lawyer couldn't tell them apart says it all. Samsung saw what Apple did, decided 'we want a piece of that cake' and copied it. They probably started out with an exact duplicate, and tried to tweak and change JUST enough so that the patents wouldn't apply.

It's completely morally wrong, it's awful practise (and people like you say Apple aren't innovative) and it may well turn out to be legally wrong too. Moving a button, changing a logo, doesn't change that.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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