By now, you have seen the news about the Apple and Samsung patent infringement lawsuits taking place across four separate continents. The one thing that is certain in all of this is that the legal wars will continue for years. And, some would argue, we are only just seeing the beginning.
A few quick facts:
1) As an AV professional working for a court system, I’ve had the privilege of learning about the legal system in ways I would never have if I was in any other sector. When designing an AV system for a courtroom, you have a unique set of criteria to follow—can it be used as a weapon or vandalized and can an attorney blame the design of the AV equipment for the grounds of a mistrial? Not something that crosses the mind of a majority of our industry, certainly, but in the court system it takes one case to become what’s known as a precedent — where all future cases are referred to in order to influence the outcome.
2) I have come back to using Apple products kicking and screaming this past year. And, it is all based on performance. I owned a Palm-Pre until just last year because I love the QWERTY keyboard. But, we all know how Palm could not keep up with the innovation of mobile apps. So, I went into the Verizon store where I replaced it with my HTC Rhyme Android phone, and have thoroughly regretted not getting an Apple iPhone ever since. I depend on my mobile device during the day to perform work for WAVE as well as working for the government; it is frowned upon to use my work computer for social media applications like Twitter, Facebook, and Gmail. They’re your tax dollars and I expect you are not paying me to promote the Women in AV.
That said, when I do get a break and try to use my Droid, it is guaranteed to have a “force closure” error at least once a day, theHootSuite app for Twitter misses hours worth of updates and locks up when searching timelines, the text in tweets is often illegible, and simple features like who retweets you are non-existent. And, as I type this, my notification just went off that WAVE has a mention. The problem is that mention is over three hours old — that one I will blame on Verizon and the 3G networks. And, this doesn’t even take into account that I am always looking at an hour’s worth of security patches and virus software updates every time I turn on my PC before I can even begin using it. To be fair, I only use it about once a month since having my MacBook Pro, so what does that tell you…
My point is I don’t want you to think I have a bias against Samsung or that I haven’t been carefully following the patent lawsuits to see if the rulings have been based on sound legal facts and laws. I’ve tried to rate things as objectively as possible. So far though (and I’m not claiming to be a lawyer), I can find nothing wrong with Apple’s position or the jury awarding them over $1 billion in damages for Samsung violating Apple’s patents in the design of their smartphones.
Here’s my breakdown between myth and fact:
Myth: A lot of people reporting on the US Apple-Samsung patent trial are referring to it as a California court trial. Fact: The United States District Court of Northern California federal court tried the case. The only reason it was located in San Jose, California was because San Jose is the location of the federal court located within Apple’s headquarters’ jurisdiction. The importance of this case being tried in a federal court is that the ruling applies across the United States instead of just within the California state court system and affecting business in California.
Myth: Samsung is being bullied by Apple and any patent infringement was simply a case of “there’s only so many ways you can make a smartphone look and perform differently.” Fact: The jury found Samsung’s infringement to be “willful” conduct and it was Samsung’s own 2010 internal emails where Google asked Samsung to change the design of its product that proved the manufacturer willingly knew it was copying and pressed on. In fact, they continue to claim their innocence. Those emails and the memo from Google were critical to the jury’s verdict and it will be more important when Judge Lucy Koh awards Apple’s damages next month. Because of this finding by the jury, Judge Koh can triple the amount of damages Apple receives from the court case. No doubt Google asking Samsung to back off should be confirmation to anyone that Samsung had been “warned” or at least should have taken a second look. If you need further proof they themselves knew they were wrong, all new Samsung devices are moving further away from the features that were part of the infringement lawsuit, such as the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Note.
Myth: Patent lawsuits should not be tried before average citizens like you and I because there’s no way we can make an informed decision about cases as complex as this or understand the legal process. Fact: This is where I think Apple may have had a helping hand from the heavens in the way of the jury’s foreman, Velvin Hogan. He himself holds a patent for video compression, has served on three prior civil lawsuit juries, and was an engineer having worked for multiple high-tech firms throughout his career in Silicon Valley. His experience proved invaluable in helping the rest of the jury navigate the set of jury instructions they had to review. And though they are long, jury instructions are purposefully written in a way to be easily reviewed and decided by folks like us. The jury requested to stay an hour longer on two of the three days of deliberation, and both the judge and Samsung and Apple had the opportunity to review the verdict to contest any errors before it was entered in the record. Of the 600 questions, the judge found the jury erred on only four questions, and these were mainly around the amount of money they awarded Apple. A complete set of the jury instructions can be found here.
And, if you think Samsung was at a deficit for who was on the jury, Apple had to fight and have removed a Google engineer from the prospective jury pool prior to the trial starting. The jury is selected through a process called Voir Dire; the judge and both parties spend weeks asking prospective jurors questions about whether they are able to be fair and impartial to the case. Each party has the opportunity to challenge whether jurors can meet that criteria and have people removed. My point is both Samsung and Apple were able to remove potential jurors for any reason, and this process goes on until both parties agreed to the nine individuals and substitutes hearing their case.
And, if you further think Samsung didn’t have a chance to avoid the outcome of the case, Judge Koh repeatedly ordered both companies to try to settle the case up until one week before it was handed over to the jury on Aug. 21, 2012.
Myth: Samsung didn’t have any other options. Fact: Microsoft Windows 8 phones are looking really good because they actually agreed to pay licensing fees to Apple for any potential features that might be a potential patent infringement. Samsung and Google had the same option in 2004 when Steve Jobs was alive, but chose not to take this route.
Speaking of the late Steve Jobs, he has been quoted as saying, “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear on this.” So one can, and many have speculated, that the Android platform is really Apple’s target and the true source of where Apple is aiming. In fact, the Android platform has yet been out of Apple’s reach from a lawsuit perspective because Google provides base software that device manufacturers build upon. It is hard for Apple to prove actual damages from Google/Android and why many say we haven’t seen an Apple/Google lawsuit. Yet. BTW, Samsung tried to have Job’s statement admitted as evidence to try to “destroy” a competitor. The judge ruled against this, citing, “I really don’t think this is a trial about Steve Jobs.” And, without him being here, it is all hearsay.
It would also be a tougher legal battle for Apple to take on Google and be such a victorious winner. Google has many patents itself such as search, maps, and Gmail that are currently available on iPhones. The idea Apple would lose the right to use these applications would surely cause a problem for their marketability. It should be noted, though, that the new iOS6 will use the mapping feature Street Maps versus Google’s traditional application.
This past Saturday, Aug. 31, 2012, Apple amended their lawsuit to include Samsung’s latest devices on the list of smartphones that should be taken off the US market. This is the right thing to do as Samsung continues to push through with selling their devices that could potentially have features that have patent infringements. And, you can be assured Samsung isn’t focused on keeping innovation moving forward as they would like to say and satisfy their customers. The holidays are coming up and they want to sell as many of their devices as possible before they may be taken off the market. So, you can stay tuned for what will surely be a long legal battle.
For those who say it’s unfair, wouldn’t you do the same if it was your invention?
The next critical dates for this lawsuit are:
September 20: Samsung seeks to have a sales ban on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 lifted after the jury said that the tablet wasn’t infringing on any of Apple’s patents.
December 6: Court date to hear Apple’s request for a permanent injunction against Samsung Electronics’ smartphones that infringed on their patent.
Both these dates are open to change, but, the devices in question for injunction are:
Apple’s list of allegedly-infringing devices:
• Galaxy S III
• Galaxy S III (Verizon)
• Galaxy Note
• Galaxy S II Skyrocket
• Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch
• Galaxy S II
• Galaxy S II (T-Mobile)
• Galaxy S II (AT&T)
• Galaxy Nexus
• Captivate Glide
• Exhibit II 4G
• Transform Ultra
• Conquer 4G
• Galaxy Player 4.0
• Galaxy Player 5.0
• Galaxy Note 10.1
• Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
• Galaxy Tab 8.9
Lastly, if anyone wants to sell their iPhone4S when the new iPhone5 becomes available, I am game. I’ve tried the Droid and it’s just been a pain in my butt!