Apple and Samsung have been at it for years now. Their dispute has turned into “the bloodiest corporate war in history” with litigation in four continents.
Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. will finally answer whether the U.S. judicial system can enforce patent rights and limit injustice in a rapidly evolving billion-dollar marketplace.
Assuming that Apple is correct in all aspects and are able to show that Samsung copied them, would Apple be able to rely on patent jurisprudence to prevent Samsung from introducing products that eventually take up a large chunk of the market. Will there ever be justice against companies such as Samsung, whose strategy is to “countersue, delay, lose, delay, appeal, and then, when defeat is approaching, settle”?What would be a fair remedy if an injunction weren’t granted?
Apple’s ingenuity has been unconventional by many standards. Their products aren’t necessarily valued and cherished for their utility. Nevertheless, the iPhone’s form and user interface resonated so well with consumers that almost every phone maker has since designed their flagship product to resemble it. It’s Apple’s keen attention to detail that make the iPhone so special. Apple’s been fighting to have the courts recognize that the patented features of their phones are the “sole driver” of consumer demand.
A quick glimpse at this litigations’ background portrays Apple’s need for quick injunctions of Samsung products. Apple never planned to go into the phone business due to the already congested marketplace filled up of well-experienced manufacturing companies. The revolutionary development of the multi-touch glass changed Steve Job’s mind. From 2004 to the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple’s creative staff wrestled over hundreds of designs that focused on every little detail that made up this new device. For example, it took as many as 50 attempts to create the perfect single home screen button. Eventually, Apple’s hard work paid off with the release of the iPhone in 2007. The iPhone was a great success. By 2009, Apple held 16 percent of the total smartphone market share. Samsung on the other hand failed to break into the top five smartphone sellers. Sensing danger, Samsung called an emergency meeting on February 10th to discuss how to save their deteriorating smartphone division. A month and a half later, Samsung introduced the Galaxy S. Samsung’s new smartphone strategy was very successful. The IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker shows that Samsung increased its worldwide market share by 310% in 2011.
At first glance, it’s not hard to see why Apple believes that Samsung “copied” the iPhone. Apple sought justice and demanded damages and an injunction against Samsung from selling phones that the jury determined infringed upon their patents. The jury did their part and determined that Samsung was in the wrong and awarded Apple $1 billion in damages. This isn’t much considering that Samsung’s mobile division generated a $5.5 billion profit for the last quarter of 2014. Nevertheless, the U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh slashed $450 million from the award and rejected Apple’s request to ban more than 20 smartphones on two separate occasions because Apple couldn’t prove it suffered “irreparable harm.” To make matters more difficult, by 2014, the Samsung devices at issue were no longer on the market. Samsung moves so swiftly with phone updates and design changes that many believe their phones are designed entirely by lawyers.
Apple still pursues retribution. Apple filed their second suit against Samsung in 2014, this time targeting 17 devices that directly infringe upon five of Apple’s US patents on simple user interface features. Some of these features include: the ever so loved “slide to unlock” home screen function, the autocorrect function of suggesting words when typing on the keyboard, and the background data syncing feature that refreshes the content of an app that is not in use. Apple is asking for a $33 to $40 royalty for each smartphone sold by Samsung for the features covered by those five patents. That’s a steep price for the use of these five features. Apple’s current royalty demand resembles the $24 per smartphone royalty demanded in October of 2010, hence showing they are still seeking rectification for Samsung’s original sin.
There may be some hope for Apple and similar companies after all. A recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has just given Apple new leverage. The court found that“Samsung’s infringement harmed Apple by causing lost market share and lost downstream sales and by forcing Apple to compete against its own patented invention,” and held that the district court judge abused its discretion by not enjoining Samsung’s injunction. Apple may not feel fully vindicated for their past grievances, but at least now there’s authority to prohibit the sale of products that infringe upon even the most minor features that make a product so unique and special.