Apple and Samsung have scores to settle with each other, with the 2012 lawsuit between them barely laying down the marker for the long-drawn tussle. At present, Apple has sued Samsung over the violation of five patents – and the latter has hit back with a couple of countersuits of its own.
It’s the fight between the two biggest software companies that everyone is talking about. According to the statements of Apple officials to the federal jury, five of its iPhone/iPad design patents have been violated by Samsung – on the latest devices released by the latter. Samsung, on its part, has maintained that no infringements have been made (although its desperate attempts to get one up on Apple are pretty much well-known). We here turn our attentions to some key aspects of this much-talked about Apple vs Samsung lawsuit:
Value Of The Lawsuit
This is not one of those petty fights between mobile app development companies, involving petty damage payments. If and when each of the alleged patent-violations are proved, Samsung would have to cough up a royalty payment of $40 million. Five such patents are under review – taking up the overall penalty for Samsung (if found guilty) to a whopping $ 2 billion. Of course, if Apple’s allegations are found to be void, it would also have to pay a compensation in the range of $60 million.
What Patents Are They Fighting Over?
Apple had the patents, Samsung had the devices – and the latter is said to have unfairly taken the opportunity of using these copyrighted designs. The patents that Apple have sued Samsung over are:
Single-tap universal search – Samsung officially does not have the right to include the ‘Universal Search’ option in its device. According to the patent agreements, only users of iOS 7 handsets should get the option of searching their phones as well as the World Wide Web for particular items – via a single tap (Patent 6847959).
Use of space bar for auto-correct – All that is required to activate the auto-correct option on Apple handsets is tapping the space bar. In what does appear to be a rip-off, some of the Samsung devices under the scanner (powered by Google Android) have a side-scrolling option, which initiates auto-correct in the same manner (Patent 8074172).
The ‘Slide-to-Unlock’ feature – Apple would probably have the maximum difficulties in validating the lawsuit over this one. As any expert on mobile app development would agree, this sliding feature (with minor variations) is present in practically all touchscreen smartphones. Apple had earlier moved to court over this too, but had failed to substantiate its allegation. Samsung might have well taken the idea from Apple, but its device designers are smart enough to not make an exact copy (Patent 8046721).
Syncing of background data – Once again, Samsung can work its way round this patent by indicating that the Google Android mobile OS has background app syncing options by default. In fact, if the patent finally gets validated, Android users might have to brace themselves for a much-changed, and considerably less powerful version of the OS. The feature, in essence, lets people make changes in the mobile version of any Google app (say, Drive) – and the same is instantly displayed in its desktop version (Patent 7761414).
Tapping on numbers/links in text messages – A 1999 patent received by Apple forms the base of the hullabaloo over this allegation. The reason behind Steve Jobs’ company singling out Samsung over this infringement is hard to understand though – for many other smartphones, including Nokia and Blackberry devices also offer this function. Apart from directly calling on a number from a SMS, the former can also be directly saved to the address book via this function. (Patent 5946647).
Is Samsung The Only Wrongdoer?
If the representatives from Samsung are to be believed, Samsung has also been wronged against by Apple – on the grounds of…you guessed it…patent infringements. There are plenty of developers of Android apps around the world who feel that these two reverse lawsuits are justified:
Video transmission – Voice Over Cellular had the patent for this function, and Apple has been sued for ‘stealing’ it on the sly. However, the video transmission on iPhones and iPads are similar – but not exact clones – of the feature in Voice Over Cellular (Patent 5579239).
Mobile folder management/Camera organization – It is yet to be seen whether the camera organization property of Hitachi handsets has indeed been ripped off by Apple. There are allegations about making the folder organization styles on the iOS devices too uncannily similar to that on other handsets.
What Are The Devices Under Scrutiny?
It would be easier to name the ones which aren’t. From iPhone 4 and 5 – for which many iPhone app development companies create customized applications, to Galaxy Nexus, S2 and S2 Epic – violated designs are supposed to be present in practically all contemporary Apple and Samsung devices. iPad 2, 3 and 4 are under review too, as are the iPod Touch and the Galaxy Tab 2 and Galaxy S3 handsets.
Why Is Google Getting Dragged In This Legal Mess?
Samsung has found an unexpected (and probably, unwilling) ally in Google – to prove that it has not willfully violated any of Apple’s patents. 9 of the 10 Samsung gadgets under examination run on the Android operating system with TouchWiz – while the other one has a pure Android software. The features of the Android OS were, of course, developed independently by Google. Apple has not directly attacked Google – but since all the disputed features are native to Android, the latter is feeling the heat too.
Reading Between The Lines
As an Apple executive (and several iPhone application developers) has already pointed out – at least the second countersuit of Samsung does not hold much water. The concerned patent had been bought by Samsung from Hitachi – AFTER the 2012 lawsuit between the two companies had started. The allegation that Samsung is resorting to unfair means for matching the popularity (and finally overtaking) iPhone devices is more serious though.
On its part, Samsung officials are maintaining that the five patent infringement charges brought in are not very specific – since such broad design similarities can be found between the products of practically all competing companies. What’s more – according to them, these features are not even important enough to influence buying decisions.
As a final shot, Samsung has categorically stated that the lawsuit amount of $40 per patent is way too exorbitant.
The Previous Bad Blood Between Apple and Samsung
There has never been much love lost between the two mobile-making giants of the present era. Steve Jobs, founder and former-CEO of Apple, had indicated Google as an ally of Samsung too – and had mentioned that the Android OS itself was a ‘copied’ product. Apple and Samsung had been locked in another lawsuit in 2012 too, which involved almost similar suing and countersuing. Apple won that round, and Samsung had to fork out $ 930 million.
But It’s Not About The Money
Let alone senior mobile experts and app developers, anyone with some idea of corporate brand wars would realize that this lawsuit is not only about the money involved. After all, the $ 930 million that Apple managed to eke out from Samsung was practically a small fraction of its overall annual turnover. It’s all about strengthening the market share, stunting the growth of its main competitor, and acquiring the numero uno status in the world of smartphones and tablets.
Quinn Emmanuel and his legal team are representing Samsung in this lawsuit, while Harold McElhinny would be in charge of trying to validate Apple’s allegations. By the end of April, we would know who comes out tops in this high-profile legal battle. None of the parties appear to be ready to concede an inch!
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