Apple verdict could have major implications for smartphone industry

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By Bob Duncan
 
Apple has won its historic US court battle with South Korean smartphone manufacturer Samsung, and has been awarded more than $1 billion (£630 million) in damages, in a ruling which could change the smartphone and tablet industries for ever.
 
Apple and Samsung had accused each other of infringing on software patents, with Apple’s allegations also including a few design patents.

On Friday the jury in the California court found that Samsung had intentionally infringed on all but one of the patents in question, including software features like double-tap zooming and scrolling, and that many Samsung devices had also infringed on hardware style or icon setup patents. Samsung’s counter claims were rejected.

The ruling covered a large number of Samsung smartphones, all of which use Google’s Android operating system, including the popular Nexus S 4G and S II. However, the jury ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablets did not infringe any of Apple’s design patents for the iPad, focussing the main impact of the verdict on the smartphone market.

Apple could now take out an injunction against Samsung to stop them selling any more of the affected devices until they have been redesigned to remove the infringements.  This would not apply to products which have already been sold, but it is likely that software updates will soon be released for those devices, which will inevitably affect their look and feel.

The verdict has strengthened Apple’s design identity, and competitors may now be afraid to come close to the iDevices’ ‘look and feel.’ This is expected to force competitors to innovate more vigorously in an attempt to construct user interfaces which are not open to claims of copyright infringement.

Chris Carani, a US intellectual property lawyer and design law expert, says the verdict could spark “a burst of creativity” in the design of future devices.

“Competitors will have to go back to the drawing board, and give their designers more creative license,” he said. “They’ll have to create something very different as far as the visual experience, and that choice could be a great benefit for consumers.”

In a statement released after the ruling, Samsung suggested strongly that the verdict would be appealed: “This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims.”

The statement continued: “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners.”

Apple’s headquarters is only 10 miles from the courthouse, and the jurors were selected from the heart of Silicon Valley where Apple’s late founder Steve Jobs is a revered technological pioneer.

A parallel case in the Seoul Central District Court decided that Samsung did not copy the look and feel of the iPhone, and that Apple had infringed on Samsung’s wireless technology.  This ruling, however, only covers sales of the devices within South Korea.