Recently, I have been labeled as an Apple “fanboy” for my continued insistence that Apple products are superior and that Samsung copied Apple in the creation of many of its products. In full disclosure, I am an avid Apple enthusiast. I have been stuck in the “Reality Distortion Field.” In my mind, the evidence shows that Samsung intended to copy the iPhone design. It should come as no surprise, then, that I was ecstatic about the news this week.
Last year, Samsung was directed to pay Apple $1.05 Billion in damages when the jury found Samsung guilty of violating Apple patents. Federal District Judge Lucy Koh then struck down 450 million dollars from the verdict because she believed that the jury erred in their determination of the original damages. This past week, a jury reached a verdict in a damages retrial between Samsung and Apple. The jury ruled that Samsung must pay 290 million dollars. Apple will now be a bit wealthier and Samsung may actually decide to pay them in nickels (that last bit was a rumor).
Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California abused its discretion in denying Apple’s request for an injunction against Samsung products. In the original trial, Judge Koh denied to issue a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy phones and tablets. Judge Koh did issue preliminary injunctions against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus products but the 9th Circuit reversed the decision. The recent decision upholds Judge Koh’s decision denying Apple’s request for an injunction based on design patents but it does allow Apple to seek an injunction with regard to utility patents. These include the “Steve Job’s Patent” and the “rubber band” effect.
Throughout my personal backing of Apple, I always felt that Apple created products that stood out in the consumer marketplace. Apple built products that would look, work, and feel different than those of their competitors. In my opinion, Samsung has damaged Apple’s ability to continue with that same strategy. Samsung is “taking” features and is unwilling to pay the price for its actions. Consider for example the contested “rubber band” effect feature. Samsung has maintained that the feature was not crucial in creating a fully functioning phone. If we take that assertion to be true, then why was the feature included in Samsung phones? To me, the fact that Samsung decided to include this feature in their products served to highlight its importance and value. If it was not crucial as Samsung alleged, then why would they expose themselves to the risk of potential liability? From my fanboy perspective, Samsung believed that this was a feature that would lead to increased sales and as long as they sold enough phones, they would manage to offset potential litigation costs. Until the damages and court ordered relief reach a level that has a deterrent effect on such behavior, litigation will not necessarily benefit Apple.
The ongoing battle between both companies is far from over. The products involved in this suit were products that are pretty much obsolete when the initial ruling was handed down. In March 2014, a different set of patents will be at stake and the popular Samsung Galaxy III will be at the forefront of the legal controversy. At one point, the Galaxy III surpassed iPhone sales and if Samsung is once again found guilty of patent infringement, potential damages could be even larger than in the previous suit. In addition, another twist in this contentious legal battle is the increased possibility of a court issued injunction in addition to monetary damages. Only time will tell what kind of effect this impending suit will have on the patent infringement dispute between Samsung and Apple, and the future of Apple products in general.