Galaxy Tab 10.1 Pulled Out of the Fry Pan, iPhone 5 Tossed Into the Fire
Things have been going pretty much Apple's way in its drawn-out patent slugfest with Samsung, but the wind seems to have shifted a little. Samsung is now free to sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S., after a federal judge lifted a preliminary injunction. Also, Samsung has dragged Apple's iPhone 5 into the legal mess, and it might just have a solid foundation for its patent infringement allegations.
10/02/12 3:19 PM PT
The California federal judge who issued a preliminary injunction in June against U.S. sales of a Samsung Galaxy tablet has lifted the ban. Judge Lucy Koh had originally found the Galaxy Tab 10.1 likely violated a tablet design patent held by Apple, but a jury found in August that it did not.
Apple was the overall winner in that particular patent case, but Samsung scored on the issue of the iPad design patent and asked that the ban be lifted.
Moreover, on Monday Samsung filed a motion with the U.S. court to pull Apple's newly released iPhone 5 into the ongoing battle between the two companies, which are locked in a struggle for dominance of the global smartphone business. Samsung alleges that Apple's new handset infringes on eight of its patents.
"This is going to be a very long movie played out over years," said telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan. "First one side will be winning, then the other side will. Like a tennis match, we will keep looking right then left, over and over again. These type cases generate lots of interest, but the real winners are the lawyers."
Apple and Samsung did not respond to our requests for further details.
Tit for Tat
Given that Samsung was found in violation of some Apple patents and is now countering that the iPhone 5 is in violation of some of its own, is this just a case of tit for tat? If Samsung should win the day, could Apple have made a blunder by moving forward, given that some of the patents in question were previously cited?
"It seems that there may be a viable claim related to the iPhone 5, as it has many of the same features of the previous iPhones over which the litigation ensued," said IP attorney Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation Business Services.
"Samsung had to wait until the iPhone 5 was actually released to the public to add it to the list of allegedly infringing devices," she noted. "Once released, it makes sense that Samsung would assert that features of the new iPhone are infringing in the same way that past iPhones contain allegedly infringing features."
It also could be a matter of design as well, Sweeney told the E-Commerce Times.
"There is likely to be protracted litigation around the designs and patent infringement issues," she added. "Because Samsung saw some success, it makes sense to try to expand their patent coverage and to include additional potential infringing work."
However, the lawyers will likely come up with as many arguments and potentially infringing works as possible.
"That is the role of counsel -- to develop theories and try them in court," Sweeney emphasized. "Since litigation is ongoing, continuing to explore new areas of infringement makes sense."
Stalemate or Breakthrough?
This latest brouhaha will likely cause both parties to dig in deeper, rather than explore a possible compromise. Given what is at stake with the continued growth of mobile smartphones, this is to be expected. As the companies continue to call in the lawyers, though, it also speaks to the current corporate culture.
"The continuing row between Apple and Samsung is merely the latest example of IT vendors using patents and other intellectual property as a competitive weapon," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
"That trend has been in evidence for a long time with numerous examples of winners -- Microsoft's continuing insistence that corporate Linux users buy licenses indemnifying them against possible legal action -- and losers -- SCO's suits against IBM and others for supposedly devaluing its version of the Unix OS," he recalled.
"These actions will continue so long as vendors employ large legal departments, which is to say, forever more," King told the E-Commerce Times. "The only thing that might derail that gloomy vision would be a wholesale redesign of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which is about as likely as pigs sprouting wings or a cessation of political partisanship."
As for this particular case, it could give both parties a chance to regroup and look to new opportunities in the federal courts, as well as the court of public opinion.
"As this was a motion filed as part of their ongoing case, this is the evolution of Samsung's strategy to try and forestall Apple's growth -- an uphill battle given the record sales Apple is already seeing on its latest smartphone release," said Chris Silva, industry analyst at the Altimeter Group.
"No doubt Samsung is feeling emboldened by the recent news of the recall of the Galaxy Tab embargo that was in place," he suggested.
"Samsung -- knowing the scrutiny such a claim will draw with the precedent established -- does feel they have legitimate claims," added Silva. "However, another major verdict as we saw in the last case seems unlikely, given the amount of precedent of Samsung being on the wrong side of patents that the last verdict, if upheld, will generate."