Thursday, 30 June 2011

Samsung and Apple - A unique Love Story

It is really an odd world out there. Friends turn foes and foes turn friends. The latest news in the world of patent litigation comes from the world's top smartphone manufactures - Apple and Samsung.


Apple had filed a lawsuit on April 15, 20011 in the Northern District of California, alleging that Samsung has copied the look and feel of its iPad Tablet and iPhone Smartphone thereby infringing on 10 patents and 2 trademarks owned by Apple. In focus is the Samsung Galaxy S 4G which Apple believes has "very close" resemblance to the iPhone 3G/3GS series. A few more products from Samsung (Epic 4G, Nexus S, and Galaxy Tab) are also believed to be similar and infringing on Apple's Intellectual Property. Out of the 10 patents, seven are utility patents. This number was later increased to eight as one patent was dropped from the lawsuit and two more were added. The number of design patent has also now increased to five from the initial three patents. The design patents are D617,334, titled "Graphical user interface for a display screen or portion thereof", D604,305, titled "Graphical user interface for a display screen or portion thereof ", D593,087, titled "Electronic device ", D622,270, titled "Electronic device" and D504,889, titled "Electronic device ". A few diagrams as provided in the design patents are illustrated below for the benefit of the reader:








Apple had sought preliminary injunction against Samsung as well as damages for the loss that Apple has suffered as a result of the copying when it filed the lawsuit.  The interesting part is to wait and watch whether this will lead to a proper trial with a judgement being delivered or will it as usual lead to an out of court "undisclosed" settlement combined with the typical "licensing" of each other's technology by both the parties. 


In response to Apple's lawsuit against it, Samsung has requested US International Trade Commission to ban the import of Apple products into the United States. It was reported on July 1, 2011 that Samsung has filed a lawsuit in Seoul, South Korea, alleging that Apple infringes on five patents in the field of Wireless Communication Standard and Mobile Interface assigned to Samsung. This is the approach that is usually followed by large corporations when they are in the middle of such lawsuits. However, what makes this particular situation different that others is the fact that both the parties happen to be heavily dependent on each others technology and expertise and a major source of revenue for each party is derived from others. For example, Apple happens to be Samsung's second biggest client after Sony. Samsung exports a major chunk of hardware that it manufactures in display and mobile technology to Apple. An increase in business for one party reflects directly as an increase in business for the other party. It is more than just "amusing" to see two big players in the smartphone market who depend heavily on each other for their profits to go against each other and file lawsuits. Maybe, juts maybe, it is a business strategy that people like me don't get.    


Another interesting observation to make is how Google approaches the events that are unfolding. Apple in its lawsuit had also alleged that the interface on smartphones manufacture by Samsung resemble its iPad and iPhone's interface.  Samsung's smartphones run on Android (Google) and the Android based smartphones have been a major threat to Apple's product this year. Is Apple indirectly targeting Google or is this the "lull" before the storm? Only time will tell.





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