Samsung and Motorola scored a victory in Germany this week when the Mannheim Regional Court found that neither company infringed on a patent owned by Apple. The patent in question is considered a broad patent that could have caused big problems for any company found to be infringing on it, but this is at least the third court in Europe to reject Apple's infringement claims on the patent.
"If Apple's proposed interpretation of this patent had been adopted by the court, numerous applications that rely on the attacked operating system functionality would no longer run in a reliable, stable fashion after a workaround," Mr. Mueller wrote. "This would have caused logistical complications with the need to rewrite, recompile and reinstall many apps."
As it is, Apple has not found a court willing to adopt its interpretation. A UK court ruled earlier in 2012 that HTC didn't infringe on the patent, and a Dutch court has rejected preliminary injunction requests by Apple based on the patent. Mr. Mueller reported that the Mannheim Regional Court had actively expressed its skepticism on Apple's claim, making the decisions for Samsung and Motorola not much of a surprise.
This is the trick with broad patents, as opposed to more limited patents like a gesture-specific patent. It's easier to prove infringement on a narrower claim than it is on a broad claim. At the same time, it's easier to work around an infringement claim on a narrower patent once it is proven than it is on a broad patent.
That makes the broad patent claim the ultimate prize for companies looking to stop their infringement, but that prize is far harder to win.
Apple's victories in the U.S. over Samsung were towards the narrower side. If Apple's win survives the appeals process, to keep its products on the market, Samsung will be forced to either reduce functionality by removing infringing features or innovate its own solution that maintains equivalent functionality without infringing.
What Samsung won't have to do, however, is scrap it whole product line or reinvent the wheel.
The battles continue and there are many other cases covering many other patent claims by all parties in this German court and in courts around the globe.