Analysts: Apple's latest patent victory over Samsung no 'knockout punch'
Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) damage award of $119.6 million in its patent-infringement trial against Samsung Electronics was a far cry from the $2.2 billion in damages Apple had sought. More importantly, according to legal experts, the jury's verdict indicates that Apple's legal strategy of suing Samsung has not slowed down Samsung's sales or the momentum of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android operating system.
The jury late last week ruled that Samsung's devices infringed on three Apple patents. One was for so-called "quick links," which dials a phone number included in an email, and Apple's "slide to unlock" patent, for unlocking a phone. The jury will reconvene on today to figure out whether more damages are necessary for Samsung's infringement of Apple's "auto-complete" patent, which offers suggestions for word correction while typing.
"Today's ruling reinforces what courts around the world have already found: that Samsung willfully stole our ideas and copied our products," Apple said after the verdict on Friday. "We are fighting to defend the hard work that goes into beloved products like the iPhone, which our employees devote their lives to designing and delivering for our customers."
The jury found that Samsung did not infringe on Apple patents related to background synchronization and universal search--notable since those functions stem more from Google's Android operating system than Samsung's phones.
Most of the infringing products are older smartphones that Samsung no longer sells, and Samsung will likely implement different, non-infringing technologies for future models. Further, the damage award mounts to roughly one-quarter of 1 percent of Samsung's $47.56 billion in cash.
Apple first sued Samsung for patent infringement in the spring of 2011. Since then, Apple executives have continually contended that Samsung's Galaxy line of phones, and implicitly many Android smartphones, infringe on patented Apple designs and software. However, that legal strategy has not dethroned Samsung as the world's largest smartphone maker (ahead of Apple), and Android's worldwide smartphone market share has continued to rise in the intervening years.
"This amount is less than 10 percent of the amount Apple requested and probably doesn't surpass by too much the amount Apple spent litigating this case," Brian Love, an assistant professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, told the Wall Street Journal. "Apple launched this litigation campaign years ago with aspirations of slowing the meteoric rise of Android phone manufacturers. It has so far failed to do so, and this case won't get it any closer."
Experts disagreed though on whether the lack of a "slam dunk" victory will give Apple pause in continuing its legal battle against Samsung. "I can't imagine that Apple came away from this case and felt like it was a resounding victory," Mark McKenna, an expert on intellectual-property law and a law-school professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the Journal. "This will take some of the incentive out of fighting this in the legal venue rather than the business world."
However, Susan Kohn Ross, a lawyer with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles who has been monitoring the cases, told Bloomberg: "They're each looking for that knockout punch and they don't seem to be able to find it. They sort of feel they are on an even keel and need to keep punching."
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