The tech world is breathlessly waiting for the jury in the US federal district court trial (San Jose, CA) in Apple v. Samsung to deliver its verdict. My prediction: expect some sort of “split decision,” in which the jury finds Samsung liable on some but not all of Apple’s claims and awards some but not all the damages that Apple is asking for.
(Update: see our post-verdict story: Apple Wins: Proves Samsung Infringed Patents As Jury Awards $1B+ In Damages.)
Apple might similarly be held liable on a couple of Samsung’s counter-claims but those are unlikely to be “material.” In such an Apple victory scenario, Samsung would appeal everything it could thereby prolonging the litigation (unless the parties were to settle).
It is also possible that the jury will completely deny Apple — but I doubt it. The jury will be struggling with how to balance protecting IP and permitting healthy competition in the market. It will want to acknowledge and punish Samsung’s fairly blatant copying of the iPhone while not doing too much to thwart competition. That’s the balancing act that the jury is likely struggling with right now.
Meanwhile around the world in South Korea a court has rendered a similar split decision in a parallel trail (without a jury).
Samsung had sued Apple on its “home court,” so to speak, and Apple countersued. The Korean court decided today that Apple had infringed two of Samsung’s patents related to wireless data transfer. These are arguably essential patents that must be licensed on FRAND terms. I’m not entirely sure about that, however.
The Korean court also found that Samsung had infringed a single Apple patent related to a “bounce- back” feature on the iPhone’s touch screen. Thousands (not millions or billions) of dollars in damages were awarded to each party. The court also banned products from both companies from being sold in South Korea. Yet most of the banned products are earlier versions of current products and do not cover the iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy III.
Theoretically effective immediately, Apple must stop selling the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 in Korea and Samsung must stop selling the Galaxy S, Galaxy SII and Galaxy Nexus smartphones as well as Galaxy Tab tablets. Arguably that’s a bigger “hit” for Samsung than for Apple. Yet it all may be meaningless because South Korean law allows the entire case to be reheard on appeal. And both sides could appeal.
The global patent battle between Apple and Samsung has been an enormous waste of resources and a boon to lawyers on both sides. It has revealed the weaknesses of the current patent system and the challenges of enforcing patents in a global marketplace. In addition to patent reform, we need new procedures (rather than courts) to resolve disputes and to ensure that core/essential patents are not abused and can be licensed on FRAND terms.
Samsung did rip-off the iPhone; there’s almost no question. But Apple shouldn’t be permitted to shut down competition from Samsung either (it would argue it’s not trying to do that). Other than eliminating software patents entirely I don’t think anyone has a great solution for how to balance these competing interests.
We can probably expect the US jury to render a verdict early next week on at least some of the claims. We’ll see if my prediction is accurate.