Apple Vs. Samsung: Apple Wins Battle But Losing War?
A jury finds Samsung guilty of infringing Apple's patents, but Apple's courtroom victories aren't slowing Android's smartphone market success.
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Apple scored another win from a California jury late Friday afternoon. The jury ruled mostly in Apple's favor, agreeing that Samsung violated some of Apple's patents and owes the iPhone maker damages. The amount awarded, however, was less than 5% of what Apple wanted. Further, Apple was found to have violated one of Samsung's patents. Apple's "holy war" against Android has scored victories in individual skirmishes, but the larger campaign is going nowhere.
The trial, held in San Jose during April and presided over by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, went to the jury just last week. Where the first trial, held in 2012, focused mostly on hardware, this trial focused on software and individual features of the iOS and Android operating systems. The members of the jury spent three and a half days deliberating the case before coming to a decision.
Apple alleged Samsung had violated four patents. The jury saw differently, convicting Samsung of violating two patents: data tapping (making calls from within an email) and auto-complete. Judge Koh had found Samsung guilty of violating Apple's slide-to-unlock patent earlier in the trial. The jury cleared Samsung of violating a patent related to Siri and another related to data synchronization.
The jury awarded Apple $119.6 million in damages for the data-tapping and slide-to-unlock patents, but it didn't award any damages for the auto-complete patent. Koh ordered the jury to reassess the auto-complete damages, saying that Apple is due some sort of award for the violation. The jury reconvenes Monday to deliberate on a dollar amount. Whatever amount the jury agrees on will likely not come close to the $2.2 billion Apple believed it was owed. The $119.6 million awarded by the jury is peanuts in comparison, and it might not even cover the expense of the trial itself. Most importantly, Apple was unsuccessful in preventing Samsung from selling the infringing devices in the US.
Samsung managed to score a minor victory itself during the trial. It had alleged that Apple was violating two of its patents. The jury agreed on one count and awarded Samsung $158,000.
Apple was awarded $930 million in the 2012 trial. With the two verdicts combined, Samsung might owe Apple more than $1.05 billion. That's a huge chunk of change, no doubt, but Samsung is still free to sell the infringing devices in the US and other markets. Android, the operating system on Samsung's devices, has made incredible strides in conquering the worldwide smartphone market. Globally, Android is on 78% of smartphones. Android debuted about 15 months after Apple's first iPhone and surpassed it quickly, thanks to support from dozens of manufacturers that have churned out wave after wave of impressive devices.
Meanwhile, Apple has done little more than to iterate on the iPhone over the last few years. It still sells tens of millions of iPhones each quarter, but it has also continued to lose market share as Android and its supporters have out-innovated Apple in recent quarters. Apple has consistently stated that it doesn't want to sell the most devices; it wants to sell the best devices.
Apple has court cases pending against Samsung and other smartphone makers in countries around the world. It may have technically beat Samsung in the US last week, but the small damages awarded are clearly more of a win for Samsung than for Apple. Apple might do well to pause and reassess just how effective its anti-Android campaign has been and what priorities it should be moving forward.
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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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