Two of the world’s top tech companies, Apple and Samsung, have finally dropped the mitts to fight it out in a San Jose courtroom.
Apple filed a lawsuit against its rival last year, alleging that Samsung had effectively lifted the designs for its smartphones and tablets from the Cupertino giant. According to Apple’s legal team, Samsung “has copied the entire design and user experience” from the iPad and iPhone.
The patent trial is one of the biggest in world history. Apple is demanding $2.5 billion.
Samsung and Apple are actually fighting it out in a number of similar fights around the world. They are going at it in courts in the United Kingdom and Germany. There’s also at least one more lawsuit between the two set to start next year.
Apple appeared to win an early battle in the war when a San Francisco judge ordered Samsung to pull its Galaxy Tab 10.1 from store shelves, stating that the tablet entry was “virtually indistinguishable” from the iPad.
In the world of patent lawsuits, they generally fall into two categories: utility patents and design patents. A utility patent covers how a particular device works and deals with its features, while a design patent covers how a particular device looks. Samsung is claiming that Apple’s iPads and iPhones have mugged some of its utility patents, while Apple is hoping to paint a picture of Samsung as a company obsessed with market victory at any cost – even design patent theft.
There are some utility patents associated in Apple’s claims, too, with the company claiming that Samsung ripped off things like “tap-to-zoom” and “twist-to-rotate.”
Here’s where it gets interesting: if Apple is successful, those utilities, some of which are certainly ubiquitous to the smartphone experience, will be the exclusive purview of Apple. The company that “doesn’t care about money” will own those features.
If Apple enjoys a victory in this case, it’s bad news for Samsung and a number of consumers outside of Apple’s wheelhouse. Samsung would theoretically be no longer permitted to include features that Apple “owns” and would have to design around said features so as to not tread on any ground and violate a patent. This path is known as “redundant engineering” and could represent exhaustive amounts of money and time spent designing “new” smartphones that are simply trying to keep up with the old ones.
In the event that Samsung wins its countersuit, it means that Apple will be required to pony up more green for the utility patents behind access to 3G. Samsung is asking for over two percent of the sale price of every iPhone sold, which means that Apple will jack up the price of its products to account for the “loss.” Again, a reminder: Apple doesn’t care about money.
The consumers are once again on the outside looking in when it comes to this and most patent lawsuits. Not only are patent suits becoming the trend in a tech industry gone wild, their results hurt customers looking for ways to stay connected in a world that increasingly demands a smartphone or tablet to stay in touch. With higher prices and fewer options, it’s hard to spot a winner outside of the executive bodies of Samsung and/or Apple.