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Judge calls out Apple on its ubiquitous design claims

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has fallen behind top Android smartphone manufacturer Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) in global sales.  Analysts say it could face a similar fate in the tablet market by 2014 or 2015.  Apple insists that Android is only beating it in sales because it "stole" its intellectual property.  

Unable to stop the Android juggernaut on the market, it has taken the top Android smartphone manufacturers to court [1][2][3][4] [5][6][7][8] [9][10][11], trying to prove they infringed on its often ubiquitous patents, which included claims of inventing multi-touch and the swipe unlock.  The Android manufacturers have fought back: Samsung and Apple have over 80 smartphone-related suits and counter-suits to date in courts around the world, since the start of the war.

I. Samsung Can Continue to Sell its Products

Late Friday in the U.S., a judge in Northern District Californian federal courtJudge Lucy H. Koh, dealt a major setback to Apple's international campaign against Samsung.  Following earlier statements where she said she would "likely" deny Apple's request for preliminary injunction, she made it final -- no injunction for Apple.

An injunction could have allowed Apple to ban the sale of all Samsung smartphones in the U.S., as well as imports, without Apple having to work through the full standard due process procedure.   Instead, the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets and other popular models like the Infuse 4G and Droid Charge will continue to be available to holiday shoppers.

Samsung spokersperson Jason Kim told Reuters in an email, "This ruling confirms our long-held view that Apple's arguments lack merit."

Apple's spokesperson Kristin Huguet disappointedly parrotted her company's previous statement: "[Samsung] blatant copying (Apple) is wrong."

The full PDF of the ruling is available here.

II. Samsung Likely Infringes Apple's Technology, But Not Its Design

While Judge Koh didn't necessarily dismiss the merits of Apple's lone technology patent in the case -- U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, which covers a menu bounce animation -- she raised serious concerns about what she viewed as Apple's attempts to position itself as the lone manufacture of functional tablets and smartphones.

She comments that "a size that can be handheld, a screen that encompasses a large portion of the front face of the smartphone, and a speaker on the upper portion of the front face of the product" are functional characteristics, not aesthetic ones and thus should not be protected by Apple's design patents.

Apple asserts that it owns the exclusive rights internationally to produce "minimalist" (that term being the summary of Apple's more verbose claim by a judge in Germany) tablets -- thin, rectangular touch-screen driven tablets with few face buttons.  Thus far Germany has been the only nation to buy such a claim.

Judge Koh's comments call into question whether Apple will be able to successfully prove that Samsung is infringing its design patents -- U.S. Design Patent No. D618,677D593,087, and D504,889 -- given the compelling differences that exist between Samsung and Apple's product lines once you look past basic form factor.

As for the technology claim, Judge Koh ruled that the menu animation wasn't enough to cause "irreparable harm" to Apple, necessitating a sales ban.  She comments, "It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung's accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed."

She did however indicate that Samsung likely infringed on the patent by including a similar animation in its distribution of the Android operatings system.  She wrote, "Apple has established a likelihood of success on the merits at trial."

Apple must now wait until July 30, 2012 to wrap up that case, though.

III. Legal Situation Grows Dire For Apple

Things are looking bad internationally for Apple's legal campaign against Android.  So far its only victories have been relatively inconsequential ones, with one exception.

A victory in Australian court, in which a single judge granted a preliminary injunction banning Samsung tablet sales was overturned by a three judge panel earlier this week.  While an appeal from Apple puts Samsung's sales down under on ice until Dec. 9, it seems unlikely that Apple will be able to sway the three judge panel, given how critical they were of the idea of a preliminary injunction.  Assuming Samsung's triumph is preserved, it will be able hit the market just in time for the final leg of holiday sales.

Elsewhere, in the Netherlands Samsung has escaped a sales ban by modifying its phones' Android distribution to remove the aforementioned "bounce" animation.  It looks likely that a similar loss, modification, and market reinstatement will occur for Samsung in the U.S.  Such a process does little to help Apple as it offers virtually no sales delay for Samsung and no serious damage to the quality of Samsung's product.

The lone sign of hope for Apple comes in Germany, Europe's third largest tablet market.  A German court ruled in a lawsuit solely dealing with Samsung's tablets that all of Samsung's tablets violated the design (not technology) patents held by Apple in the European Union.  This rulign was the polar opposite of the decision by a Netherlands court, which ruled, like the U.S. court, that Apple's design claims were too broad.

Samsung yielded to the German Judge's ruling, redesigning its product to have a different frame and repositioning its elements such as the speaker and buttons.  Apple however has filed a second suit against the new design, which should soon go on sale.  It reasserts that it should be the only company legally allowed to make a modern tablet (primarily touch driven, thin, rectangular), regardless of whether the modern tablet looks different from the iPad.  The German justice system has not yet decided whether or not to authorize Apple's request for a new preliminary injunction.

If Apple continues to lose or post inconsequential wins in the majority of its court cases the company may be forced to decide between financial success and continuing its personal legal vendetta against Android.  Late company co-founder and CEO Steve P. Jobs, described his final plan for his beloved company remarking, "I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product." 

His successors could be forced to make the tough decision of whether to follow that plan -- whether to exhaust all of the company's fortune on trying to "out-sue" its Android rivals.

Sources: Ruling via The Verge, Reuters



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RE: Makes me laugh
By Tony Swash on 12/4/2011 1:43:13 PM , Rating: -1
I think what is silly is using a the word troll when what you actually mean is somebody saying something you disagree with - which in your case would define 99% of the human race as trolls. Time to break out the Thesaurus and learn to express yourself in a non-adolescent fashion. What is also silly is to think that people are restricted to posting on one web site about the same topic.

What's sad is to see people who are seemingly interested in technology reduced by iPhobia to such fear and loathing of the preeminent technology company of the day. It's like being into bird watching but having a phobia about Eagles.


RE: Makes me laugh
By nikon133 on 12/4/2011 6:23:35 PM , Rating: 5
Projecting a little bit, are we? I've never-ever-EVER seen such paranoia around here like the one so common at Apple Insider. Every article related to (and by default heavily biased against) MS and Google starts with same parade of hatred, rage, poor attempts of being smug and "elitist", all laced with rich underlying layer of inferiority complex; it seems too many Apple users still remember where Apple was not so many years ago, and fear it might go back there again.

That being said. Apple addressed courts around the globe to protect what they perceived as their patented IP. So far, majority of those claims were turned down... so, is it about time to quit saying everyone is ripping off Apple's ideas? Or shall we keep on hanging onto immortal SJ's words of "Courts are doing it wrong"?


RE: Makes me laugh
By sprockkets on 12/4/2011 10:01:59 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I've never-ever-EVER seen such paranoia around here like the one so common at Apple Insider. Every article related to (and by default heavily biased against) MS and Google starts with same parade of hatred, rage, poor attempts of being smug and "elitist", all laced with rich underlying layer of inferiority complex;


Indeed. The site features so little apple news. It basically is run by Daniel Dilger, aka by pseudonyms Prince McLean and Slash Lane, which he uses to sockpuppet. One only has to view their forums of all of them fapping to the news of their competitors.


RE: Makes me laugh
By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2011 8:47:07 PM , Rating: 2
What's funny is that Tony and Takin based a large portion of their arguments on the court rulings in Germany and Australia. A "look, see we were right!" approach.

Now that those courts and the U.S court (the one that actually matters) have gone the other way, they're reversing their earlier positions of appealing to a higher authority. Now court rulings suddenly do not matter, and Android is still a "stolen" product.

I guess they think they can have it both ways and eat their Apple pie too lol.


RE: Makes me laugh
By TakinYourPoints on 12/5/11, Rating: -1
RE: Makes me laugh
By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2011 10:32:22 PM , Rating: 1
Who cares what you think anymore? Have another -1 on the house bud.


RE: Makes me laugh
By TakinYourPoints on 12/5/2011 10:39:14 PM , Rating: 1
Can't say I really care what the deluded and irrelevant hivemind here thinks. :)


RE: Makes me laugh
By Reclaimer77 on 12/5/2011 10:49:35 PM , Rating: 1
Nice hypocrisy lol

quote:
You clearly do. It is adorable that you took the time to address my posts, so mad. I'd be mad too if I bought trash.


Clearly YOU care or you wouldn't come here and post your bullcrap knowing you'll be smacked down for it day after day. There's nothing more pathetic than someone who refuses to accept he's not wanted. Why would you want to be another Tony? Who want's to be THAT guy lol.


RE: Makes me laugh
By TakinYourPoints on 12/5/2011 11:29:49 PM , Rating: 2
I just post facts, especially when someone is clearly wrong. I can't help it how people react if they're so blinded by their fanboyism.

And believe me, if I didn't see DailyDerp on the Anandtech sidebar I wouldn't be here. I hate that this clownshow is only a click a way.


RE: Makes me laugh
By TakinYourPoints on 12/5/2011 11:32:48 PM , Rating: 2
Also, I address the subject, you actually call out people in subthreads where they aren't even participating. I don't do that, so no hypocrisy here.

It's so cute that you have a crush, can't stop thinking about me.


RE: Makes me laugh
By TakinYourPoints on 12/5/2011 10:41:32 PM , Rating: 2
You clearly do. It is adorable that you took the time to address my posts, so mad. I'd be mad too if I bought trash.


RE: Makes me laugh
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/6/2011 8:26:06 AM , Rating: 2
Garbage to you , and fortunately, your opinion is just that, an opinion.


RE: Makes me laugh
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/14/2011 8:51:36 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.[4] The noun troll may refer to the provocative message itself, as in: "That was an excellent troll you posted".
You, troll.


"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates














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