Apple Sues Samsung Over Galaxy Look and Feel

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Apple has filed suit against Samsung Electronics Co. for violating Apple’s intellectual property, the look and feel of the Galaxy tab as well as some phones.

The suit, #11-1846, was filed on April 15, 2011 in the Northern District of California (San Francisco), the typical venue for cases like this. It covers the Galaxy Tab (tablet) and the Galaxy S 4G, Epic 4G and Nexus S phones.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s filing said, in part, “Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple’s technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.”

Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet said, “This kind of blatant copying is wrong.”

Apple both competes with and cooperates with Samsung; they are classic frenemies in the corporate world. It would probably be farfetched to suggest that Samsung would unilaterally disrupt the contractually agreed to flow of component parts to Apple, such as Flash memory, SSDs, and other chips over this kerfuffle. Both sides know that they need to help each other make money, and both sides also would grudgingly agree that copying each other’s intellectual property (IP) is not something each side can abide by.

The upshot? Business as usual. And the respective attorneys earn new BMWs when it’s over.

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Comments

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

To paraphrase Jake Harper, this is clock waving. Apple is starting to realize that it can’t claim to be innovative and original unless it’s suing someone for copying. When they sued Microsoft, they were serious. This time, they’re playing a marketing game.

Nemo

A good analysis of the significance of the ITC staff opinion for the public representative and of the action before the ITC involving Apple, HTC, and Nokia, see Foss Patents:  ITC staff advocates dismissal of Apple’s allegations against HTC and (with respect to one remaining patent) Nokia, which is Florian Mueller’s blog.  I tried to provide the URL, but the TMO’s server wouldn’t let me.

bsatchfield

I’m surprised Apple doesn’t bring more lawsuits than they do. It seems that there is way more “Let’s copy what Apple did” than innovation.

Yes, I’m an Apple product user and fan, but I can still identify a lack of innovation when I see it. Come up with something new, people! The only thing that’s going to be better than Apple is something that’s not the same as Apple!

Beeblebrox

I still remember years, and years, and years ago, when Apple sued MS over the Windows infringement over Apple’s"look and feel.”  If I remember the end results of that multi-year food fight, it was basically that Apple screwed up in its license to MS, and that look and feel was not patentable.  Since then SW companies have been patenting interface elements so that look and feel eventually becomes patentable.  Is this ultimately the right approach?  My impression is that a lot of bad patents have been issued, and almost any new product violates someone’s patent.

A patent should be for a truly new idea.  Patents for pop-up vs. pull-down menus—c’mon!  Let them copyright these ideas like a new novel, and allow innovation to flow and build off each other’s ideas.  Tech companies are spending way too much money on lawyers and too little innovation—if anyone has the data I would be interested to be proven wrong.

pader

Why don’t they sue Google?

FlipFriddle

Well, I can tell you, as a designer, I’d be annoyed too with the way Apple’s design work is being ripped off by everyone. It’s obvious that the entire industry uses Apple as their R&D lab. Remember how soon after the first iMac came out, suddenly you could buy a computer that wasn’t beige or grey. How the glossy candy button look suddenly showed up everywhere after OSX came out? The trouble is that a “look” is very hard to patent or own because it’s so subjective. I blame the crappy patent law in the US, but applaud Apple for going after serial imitators even though it’s unlikely they will ever win a suit.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Flip: Are you annoyed with this?

Sammy F700 v. iPhone

daemon

Why don?t they sue Google?

Cause Google hasn’t ever violated Apple Intellectual Property?

John Martellaro

pader:

In a nutshell, you can’t stop the very wealthy Google from building Android, but you can stop a less wealthy company from selling an infringing product to the public. The pipe dream is to leave a bad taste in the mouth of these phone makers so that they become gun shy and then Android becomes orphaned.

For example: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-real-reason-apple-is-suing-samsung-2011-4

Brad?  Nemo?

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Brad?? Nemo?

Kids, this is how you troll. Heh.

Marketing enters into a decision like this as much as legal, and business enters more. The legal outcome is likely a patent swap and FU money one way or the other several years down the road. The business angle… Whatever market they are fighting over will mature and probably go some unexpected direction before the original dispute is settled. Money will already have been made, and the settlement will be rounding error. Let’s say it goes to trial. Original product A fizzled out. Copy product B made tens of billions. The largest jury verdict for a patent suit is still in the hundreds of millions. Rounding error. And realistically, even if company B wholesale stole IP from company A, they probably had to “invent” 100x as much to make a market success.

Marketing.. Their complaint includes a few obscure software patents from the 90s—hell, I’d be surprised if the old “Control Panel” patent isn’t in there along with dynamic object method dispatching—but their PR flack states how innovative Apple is and what copy-cats Samsung is. Well, being a copy cat is not a criminal offense. It is at worst a tort, and it relies on the party whose government granted IP rights are allegedly infringed to bring suit and finance all that entails, like the BMWs for the lawyers.

Apple probably scores a +1 with this action against Sammy. The press parrots Apple’s spokeshole to say that Apple is “innovative” and Sammy is a copycat. Check. American company suing Korean company. Check. Apple tells investors it values its IP. Check. It’s more a feel-good message to Apple fans than a warning to handset makers.

mhikl

It?s obvious that the entire industry uses Apple as their R&D lab.

So true FlipFriddle. It seems to be such a take-&-not-give back strategy by the Android and other copyists. They just don’t spend the dime and time to generated their own ideas. Competition is supposed to be good but the only ones gaining from this is the copyist side. They get Apples R&D and testing and tweaking for free. Apple gets nothing back; no new ideas in design or purpose. However, bad press for the copyists is good karma for Apple when the copies flop.

So I agree with patents. If someone copies a motion, the others should have to pay. Apple copies an Android original idea (now it is possibly) Apple pays. Android and the rest would end up paying Apple a lot more than it would have to pay out.

Of course this would play to Apple’s advantage. They spent years designing their tablet and came up with the perfect specs for display ratio and size. Some of the others, to their credit, are attempting long-and-narrow (not so good for productivity, reading or gaming but great for video viewing on devices smaller than monitors). Samsung tried smaller, but it is an appliance and many-other-thing company with many irons in many different fires. How could they ever come up with an original idea or ground breaking pattern; Samsung does come up with many good and very good ideas, but probably from outsourced research and always with an eye on the original designer who has the third eye to the new and improved.

In the long run, it won’t matter. oTablets (other) won’t be making much moolah for app designers or their companies. Apple’s got that talent lock, stock and barrow under key and Apple’s where the money is since it decided to add competitive pricing to its culture of superior style, quality and user experience. The good-enough crowd don’t pan out very well when their prices don’t reflect the savings it once did.

Looks like the iPhone is trumping Android on the Verison line. (Am throwing this in just to get the dogs chomping.)

mrmwebmax

+

@bosco:

A company defending its patents isn’t a marketing game: Its a company defending its patents. Spin it as much as you like, but when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007 he said that Apple had patented the hell out of it. Any company with patents has a duty to itself and its shareholders to defend those patents.

Furthermore, as to product A fizzling out while copy product B sells tens of billions…I assume that you are talking about how the iPhone is doomed to die (as you claim over and over and over again) while the superior Android phones eventually become the phone of choice for 99% of the world’s population.

News flash: The suit isn’t just about the iPhone. It’s about iOS, the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the iPad. It’s about the entire iOS platform. Now, about that whole “fizzling out” thing of yours, here’s a fun statistic for you that was just released by comScore. If you compare platforms, namely iOS to your beloved Android, iOS positively trounces Android:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2383815,00.asp

The installed base of iOS: 37.9 million. Of Android: 23.8 million. And given Android’s positively miserable performance in the tablet space, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@mrmgraphics: Riled up the fanboys. Check.

Any company with patents has a duty to itself and its shareholders to defend those patents.

That’s a basic misunderstanding of the practical business value of patents, and perhaps a deeper confusion about “defend it or lose it”, which applies to trademarks, not patents or copyrights.

It’s instructive to look at how Apple has handled its design patent dispute with HyperMac vs. the suits against HTC and Samsung. Clearly, the suit against HyperMac is about protecting Apple’s monopoly on power connectors and the pricing power such a monopoly affords. No marketing there, just protecting business turf. With HTC and Samsung, the parties have no realistic hope of settling the matter in the next 4 years. So the present value of those actions is all marketing. If you assume Apple is totally correct, and you (wildly) project what Apple could win in court, and compare to the value of the mobile market that HTC and Samsung will presumable take using the infringed patents in the net 4 years, the long term value of the suits is rounding error.

But the clincher for me in concluding that this is all showmanship is how Microsoft dealt with HTC soon after Apple sued. Microsoft licensed its applicable patents to HTC rather than sue. Notice that Microsoft is getting value for its IP now, while Apple is deferring and risking by suing rather than licensing. Now talk to me about duty to shareholders grin.

Tiger

While the companies have their choice to sue or not, license or not, consumers are making their choices.

In essence, 2% of Apple’s iPads are returned. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab return rate is 16%.

mrmwebmax

+

@bosco:

I’m not saying patents are like trademarks, so I’m not using the “defend it or lose it” argument. I’m saying that, starting in 2004, Apple began designing the iPhone. Creating the iPhone no doubt cost them lots of money: to pay the interface designer who created inertial scrolling and other iOS user interface elements, to pay Jonathan Ive to design the physical device, etc. Those are real business costs, as are the costs to patent them. Apple can’t afford to let any company blatantly use their patented ideas, as Apple has paid serious money for the development of those ideas. That’s business.

And as for Apple licensing their ideas, as did Microsoft? That’s counter to the company’s entire business model…a model which seems to be working quite well for them, and making customers purchase so many iPad 2s and “doomed” iPhone 4s that Apple can’t make them fast enough.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@mrm: Ideas are not patentable. Specific innovative implementations are. Assume you are correct and Apple really is doing this to protect its R&D investment out of some high principle. Before they can ever get a verdict or collect a dime for the alleged harm done to them, the patents will probably be subject to all kinds of criticism, perhaps re-examination, probably licensing of similar patents held by third parties to Sammy and HTC, etc. This will take place over several years.

Bottom line is this… In the mobile market, if your company is worth north of $10B, you can probably afford to willfully violate any patents you want, make an impact on the market (assuming your product is good enough), and worry about defending the suit or amassing ammunition for a counter-suit over a period of years. The more likely scenario is that any product you bring to market these days—even if you’re Apple—probably violates 100 patents from inventors large and small, so patent litigation is just a cost of doing business. Of course, suing the competition plays well with your rabid base, and Apple is king of the rabid base.

gnasher729

I looked around a bit, and found this, an article from Feb. 2007:

http://www.onecompare.com/mobile-news/242/46986512/samsung-ultra-smart-f700-takes-on-the-iphone.htm

With the iPhone hype still pretty much the talk of the nation, it has become clear that iPhone?s competitors are not taking it lightly.

Along with such phones as the NEO1973 and the Meizu, Samsung have announced a competitor in the touch screen war, code named the Ultra Smart F700.

So clearly these pictures showing the F700 in 2006 are faked. Another article says this:

One of the last released phones of 2007 is the Samsung F700 (super) Smart Phone ? which will only be available on the Vodafone network. A touch-sensitive screen, and the standardised QWERTY keyboard make this phone an ultra-desirable handset for this up-coming Christmas.It looks gorgeous ? it feels gorgeous and it is released on the 27th November 2007.

gnasher729

Bottom line is this? In the mobile market, if your company is worth north of $10B, you can probably afford to willfully violate any patents you want, make an impact on the market (assuming your product is good enough), and worry about defending the suit or amassing ammunition for a counter-suit over a period of years. The more likely scenario is that any product you bring to market these days?even if you?re Apple?probably violates 100 patents from inventors large and small, so patent litigation is just a cost of doing business. Of course, suing the competition plays well with your rabid base, and Apple is king of the rabid base.

So out of all people, you, Bosco, call people “rabid”????

Anyway, here is where your calculation is wrong: In the damage calculation. Usually patent cases are brought by some patent troll, and some damage is calculated based on how much someone would have to pay to license the patent. That is not the case here. Apple will claim that because of the trade suit and design patent violations, every single infringing Samsung phone is one lost sale for Apple. And the profit lost and therefore damage is whatever profit Apple makes on average on an iPhone, not what Samsung makes on a phone. That’s before we even start with penalties for willful infringement. The result could be Samsung making flash memory and touch screens for Apple for free for the next twenty years.

daemon

With the iPhone hype still pretty much the talk of the nation, it has become clear that iPhone?s competitors are not taking it lightly

/facepalm

Do you seriously not remember the iPhone furor and how everything was an “iPhone killer” even when the products won awards before the iPhone was ever shown?

http://www.toptechnews.com/news/LG-s-PRADA-Phone-Rivals-Apple-iPhone/story.xhtml?story_id=10200A12TWVU

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