Samsung dealt a stinging defeat in Apple patent case
Published: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, August 28, 2012 17:08
SAN JOSE, Calif. - In a verdict that would have warmed the heart of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a federal jury on Friday handed Apple Inc. a resounding legal victory in its bitter patent war with Samsung Electronics Co., ordering the South Korean tech giant to pay more than $1 billion in damages for “willfully” copying the iPhone and iPad.
Legal experts say the jury’s finding of “willful” infringement enables Apple to seek to triple the billion-dollar damage award, which already believed to be an unprecedented judgment in a patent trial.
Ticking off one-by-one the items in the 20-page verdict, the jury found that Samsung trampled on Apple’s patent rights in a wide range of Samsung smartphones, as well as its Galaxy tablet. The jury in particular found Samsung’s Fascinate, Epic 4G and Galaxy S II smartphones were rogue products that warranted more than $100 million each in damages for copying the iPhone, although the panel spared Samsung much punishment for infringing the iPad.
At the same time, the jury rejected Samsung’s counterclaims that Apple infringed some of its wireless technology patents. The jury reached its verdict on the third day of deliberations.
Legal experts were quick to say Apple got just about everything it could want from the much-anticipated verdict. It was “a huge win, a crushing win,” said Santa Clara University law professor Brian Love.
Apple’s next move is likely to be to ask U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to permanently block the sale of many of the products in the United States; she already has issued preliminary injunctions against the Nexus phone and Galaxy 10.1 tablet. And Samsung is certain to appeal to the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, the Washington, D.C.-based court that hears patent appeals, although legal experts say the jury decision is on firm legal ground.
“The verdict will be hard to dislodge,” said Stanford University law professor Mark Lemley. “It’s clear the jury took their job very seriously.”
The jury’s verdict was the most important milestone in the nearly two-year global war between the two tech giants over legal rights in the smartphone and tablet market. At stake is Apple’s grip on the massive U.S. market and the impact of its aggressive claims that Samsung is propelling itself with smartphones and tablets that copy the iPhone and iPad, two of the most recognizable products ever produced.
With the U.S. marketplace key, the verdict gives Apple a leg up in a legal firestorm that has stretched from San Jose to Australia, across Europe and into Asia. On Friday, a South Korean court issued a split ruling in a similar patent fight there, siding with Samsung on some claims and Apple on others. That decision came just hours before the jury declared Apple the clear winner in the Silicon Valley case.
While the San Jose verdict was definitive, it may not settle the global smartphone war between the two rivals.
“It’s a strong win for Apple, but the war between the parties will go on,” said Robin Feldman, a Hastings College of the Law professor.
An Apple spokeswoman said the trial showed “Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew.”
Samsung lamented that Apples victory was a loss for American consumers. .”It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation and potentially higher prices,” the company said in a release.
“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,” the company said.
This won’t be the final word, it said, noting the courtroom confrontations around the globe.
The three-week trial gave both companies an unprecedented opportunity to tell their sides of a story that could shape their increasingly competitive relationship for years to come. The outcome may provide the groundwork for resolution of the global legal feud.
During the trial, Apple depicted Samsung as an unrepentant copier, scrambling in the aftermath of the iPhone’s 2007 release to develop products that shared the same smartphone features and could be sold at a lower cost. Samsung, Apple insisted, cheated by copying the iPhone and later the iPad, mimicking the designs so much that Google Inc. warned Samsung the devices looked too much alike.
Apple urged the jury to award at least $2.5 billion in damages for selling tens of millions of what were branded “accused” smartphones and tablets.
Samsung, meanwhile, portrayed Apple as a company trying to stifle competition by using lawyers and the courts to assert patent rights without legal justification. Samsung denied copying Apple in products such as the Galaxy smartphones and tablets, and told the jury that Apple’s iPhone and iPad were part of an evolution in the industry, not the unprecedented innovations Apple made them out to be.
With the legal battle unfolding, South Korea-based Samsung has surpassed Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple as the top seller of smartphones internationally, while Apple’s iPad has kept its lead in tablet sales.
Apple’s hostility toward Samsung and, by implication, Google’s Android operating system, permeated the proceedings. Many legal and tech observers consider Apple’s legal assault on Samsung an outgrowth of Jobs’ fury over what he considered copying by smartphone rivals and Google’s Android system, which runs on most smartphones made by Apple’s competitors.
The fallout from the San Jose verdict could land in many places. The trial dealt only with an older line of Samsung smartphones and tablets, reflecting the fact that such patent feuds often lag behind the release of new technology. A second patent case is pending before Koh over some of Samsung’s more recent products, with a trial date in 2014.