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Apple v Samsung: The Verdict and Where We Go From Here

Apple v Samsung: The Verdict and Where We Go From Here

A federal jury returned a verdict, after just two days of deliberation, late last night in the Apple v Samsung case. It was surprising that the jury had returned so quickly, indeed one member of Apple’s legal team returned to the courtroom in a polo shirt, demonstrated he was clearly expecting it to take much longer. The case was complex, in-fact the jury had to consider some 700 questions, and hadn’t asked a single question of the judge since they retired. The teams began filing into the courtroom at approximately 3PM local time and Judge Lucy Koh entered shortly after. We heard that Samsung had made a request for time to review the verdict form after the verdict was read, to check for inconsistencies. Judge Koh agreed, saying the request “made sense”.

Key points

  • Jury finds Samsung wilfully violated Apple patents on multiple devices and software, but Apple didn’t violate any Samsung patents
  • Jury also rules that Samsung diluted Apple’s trade dress for the iPhone, but not the iPad
  • Apple awarded $1.049 billion in damages
  • Samsung is awarded no damages in Apple patent counter-suit
  • Samsung to appeal

Judge Koh took some time to review the verdict document, and, eventually asked the foreperson if the jury had reached a verdict, to which the response was “yes”. The build-up had been tense and the moment of truth had finally come. Apple lawyers were smiling, but this was probably because they were relieved they wouldn’t have to wait all weekend for a verdict. The foreperson began to read the verdict, question by question, and the result was a crushing blow to Samsung. The jury had ruled that Apple had won on a vast number of their claims against Samsung, although Samsung had managed to avoid losing when it came to some of the claims against its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. The final verdict form (see resources tab) demonstrates the breadth of Apple’s win. The jury also found that Apple had not violated any of the patents for which Samsung was counter-suing. All three of Apple’s software parents on the iOS user interface were valid and had been infringed, along with Apple design patents. Apple’s trade dress on the iPhone and iPhone 3G had also been diluted by several Samsung phones.

On the other hand, Samsung lost on every part of its case against Apple. The jury found that none of the Apple devices in the case infringed upon Samsung patents.

Brief break down of the ruling

  • Samsung guilty on bounce-back scrolling feature patent
  • Samsung infringes on pinch to zoom feature patent on all but three devices
  • Patent iPhone’s front surface violated by Samsung on all but one phone
  • Two Samsung phones violated the patent on the back of the iPhone
  • All Samsung phones violated the iPhone home screen patent
  • Galaxy Tab design did not infringe the Apple iPad’s design
  • Apple patents were wilfully infringed by Samsung in 5 out of 7 places
  • All of Apple’s patents were found to be valid
  • iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4, iPad and iPod Touch don’t infringe on any Samsung patents.

It is perhaps important to note that although Apple won on most of their design patent claims in relation to the iPhone, the jury found that Samsung had not copied the design of the iPad when making their Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet. The jury were instructed to revisit their finding on one patent, ‘889, after they awarded damages for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 4G LTE, despite finding the tablet had not infringed. The decisions relating to the iPad were the only major ones to go against Apple.

The jury then moved on to answer another question: should Samsung have known that it was infringing on Apple’s patents? In all of the devices involved, where the jury found an infringement, they also found that Samsung should have known it was infringing. One of the most important questions was whether or not Samsung was wilful in their infringement. This is important because it has a big effect on the damages awarded. The jury ruled that Samsung’s infringement was wilful on all patents, with the exception of the ‘087 and ‘889 patents.

The jury awarded damages amounting to a total $1,049,343,540. In return, the jury found that Apple should pay Samsung $0.

Reaction

An Apple spokeswoman thanked the jury for its time and effort:

“We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it. The mountain of evidence presented during the trail showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behaviour wilful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.”

The spokeswoman went on to say that Apple valued originality and innovation and that the company applauds the court for making it clear that “stealing isn’t right.”

Samsung, understandably so, was less happy with the work of the court. The Korean giant said the verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, “but as a loss for the American consumer”.

“It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple’s claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.”

What’s next?

The case isn’t over however. The parties now move onto an injunction hearing, set for September 20th, to determine which, if any, of the Samsung devices found to infringe could be banned from selling. The timetable is as follows:

  • August 27th – Apple files its requests
  • Within two weeks – Samsung to respond
  • September 20th – Injunction hearing to take place

Judge Koh said she was keen to give the “maximum time to Samsung“, which was asking for more time. Apple now has an incredibly strong verdict in its pocket and it likely to press its advantage home, which could result in multiple Samsung devices being banned from sale in the U.S.

What does this all mean?

In the short term, Apple is expected to seek sales injunctions against all of the accused devices that are still on sale. This request is made considerably easier by the sheer annihilation of Samsung at the hands of the jury. Samsung will also likely appeal most of the legal decisions in the case, and we expect Apple to appeal the decision in relation to the iPad trade dress.
Going forward, we’re likely to see changes to the user interface of the Android operating system. Now that Apple has proven its patents are defendable and valid, new handsets will likely adopt very different designs.

Apple also has cases still pending, including cases against Samsung, HTC and Motorola. We’re now likely to see these cases settle. Apple has now proven how strong the story it tells a jury can be and the results speak for themselves. It is unlikely that any other manufacturer will want to go through the ordeal Samsung has just experienced.

The wisdom of jury trials in patent cases

On another note, I can only question the wisdom of allowing a jury of lay-persons to preside over such a complex case. The case involved over 700 decisions for the jury to make, not to mention the difficulty of understanding and interpreting highly complicated technical terms and the intricacies of patent law. The work of a jury is never difficult, however it is necessary. Criminal trials demand a jury of the defendant’s peers to maintain fairness and impartiality. However, what is gained by having two multi-billion dollar corporations judged by a jury of ordinary people? Although there are some incredibly complicated concepts in the criminal law, a strong jury direction often negates this issue, and there are usually only two questions to answer: is the actus reus present and, if so, does the defendant have the requisite mens rea? Would it not be better to have a panel of skilled patent attorneys deliver a ruling? If this was the case, we could do away with the time taken to ‘dumb-down’ the evidence and inevitable appeals on technical issues.

Whatever happens now, there is no doubt this is a crushing blow for Samsung and a statement by Apple.

 

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