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Apple – Samsung – What is it to us consumers?

The verdict is out – Samsung should pay Apple US$1.05 billion in damages for infringing Apple patents.  The jury ruled that Samsung violated a number of Apple patents in creating a number of Samsung devices.  Samsung countersued for US$422 million but the jury ruled that Apple need not pay Samsung anything.

What are the patents involved?  There are two types of patents – Utility patents which covers the features of a phone or a tablet and Design patents which is about the appearance or the look of the device.

According to the jury, Samsung violated three utility patents – Number 381 which covers the ability of smartphones to drag documents, rotate by twisting, zooming in by pitching and the bounce-back feature, the bounce that occur when a user scrolls too far in a document.  Patent 915 is about scrolling through documents using only one finger and Patent 163 which is about the tap-to-zoom function.

With regards to the design patents, the jury said Samsung violated Patent 667, 087 and 305.  The first two is about the rectangular shape with rounded edges and rounded backs.  Patent 305 is about the way icons are squared-gridded out on an iPhone screen.

On the other hand, Samsung also filed its counter-suit against Apple – three utility patents which includes sending email and multitasking and two 3G standards.  All of which was ruled in favor of Apple, the jury said Apple didn’t infringe on any of Samsung’s patent.

So with the verdict now out, what is it to Apple, Samsung and the consumer?

For Apple, the company is now US$1.05 billion richer.  But more than the US$1.05 billion, Apple stands to earn more because of licensing fees not only from Samsung but also from other device manufactures of smartphones and tablets.  It was also reported that Apple will seek a ban on certain Samsung devices which it deemed to be infringing to its patent.

The downside of the verdict is that Apple might find itself alone in the battle.  A scenario like Apple against the rest is very possible.  Android and Windows devices might come together and develop a new category all together.  We all know that killing the competition totally is not a healthy business proposition.  Competition is good, it’s a good leverage to show the consumer how your product is better than the rest.  Apple might just have created more enemies than friends here.

For Samsung, the company is now US$1.05 billion poorer and its reputation being questioned.  Samsung might be deemed as a copycat because of the verdict.  A decision by the court to ask Samsung to pull out some of its products from the market will hurt Samsung as well.  The good thing about all this for Samsung is it solidifies its position as a strong contender in the smartphone and tablet category.  Samsung is a serious threat to Apple’s dominance, no question about it.  The case put Samsung in the limelight making it more popular than it used to be and has gained more recognition as an equal to Apple or even better.

For the consumer, I think affordable devices will be put on hold for awhile.  If licensing fees will be charged, then we can expect that these fees will be passed on to the consumers which will mean more expensive devices.  Innovation will take a hit as well because manufacturers will now think carefully that no patents will be violated for their upcoming devices to avoid lawsuits.

Let me just make something clear here – Intellectual property should be respected no matter what, it should be protected at all cost.  But debates like can a shape or scrolling feature that is so basic be patented by a company or an individual?  Some say its ridiculous and absurd.  But I am no lawyer so I will just leave it up to you to think and decide about this matter.

So is this the end of the legal battle between Apple and Samsung or Apple and the rest of the smartphone and tablet makers?  I would dare say that this is the end of the beginning.  Samsung will definitely file for an appeal.  Apple will continue to file patent infringement cases. Samsung and the other companies might file their own charges against Apple.  It’s going to be a mess really.

Before I end, let me just give you a little prediction.  I won’t be surprised if Samsung is now working with Google and Microsoft for new devices.  A new shape maybe with a lot of new features that can’t be found in Apple devices.  Samsung competitors could just turned to allies soon.  Why do I say this?  Have you seen the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1?  If you do, then you know what I mean.

(Article written by Jerry Liao)

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