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Saturday, 25 August 2012 11:26

Jury orders Samsung to pay $1b in damages to Apple

Written by Peter Scott

Samsung to challenge ruling, faces uphill struggle

Regardless of where you may stand in the never ending Apple v. Samsung dispute, the fact that a dull patent trial turned out to be one of the biggest events in tech this year does not bode well for the industry in general.

Late Friday, a US jury finally returned a verdict in the month long trial and Cupertino should be thrilled by the outcome. The court ordered Samsung to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages. What’s more, the jury backed nearly all Apple claims. Apple welcomed the verdict, but also announced that it would petition the court to triple the damages, as it had originally asked for $2.7 billion in damages. Apple believes that its previous claims that Samsung had blatantly copied its designs were vindicated by the verdict and in strict legal terms Apple is right.

Of course, Samsung is pledging to fight the ruling. The company plans to file motions to overturn the verdict and if it fails, it will appeal the ruling. Like Apple, Samsung is sticking to its guns and it claims the ruling will stifle competition and result in fewer choices and innovation, coupled with higher prices for consumers.

Regardless of what Samsung intends to do, the ruling is clearly a major coup for Apple and to be honest, Samsung brought it on itself. Although some Apple patents used in the trial were incomprehensibly broad and open to interpretation, Samsung did imitate Apple a bit too closely on more than one occasion. The best example is probably the original Galaxy S smartphone, which practically looked like an iPhone 3GS with a different form factor screen. Apart from physical design, Samsung also tried to imitate Apple’s UI in its ToucWiz skin. Luckily, Samsung’s new products bear little resemblance to Apple gear, but there is still a chance Apple could use Friday’s ruling in future complains and injunction requests.

Although Samsung is once again moaning about the “rounded rectangle” aspect of the ruling, and rightly so, the absurd rectangle patent was just one of 33 multi-part questions put forth to the jury, yet we did not see a mixed verdict. Jurors answered “yes” to every single question, although they excluded a few devices in some questions.

That seems to be the crux of the issue – Apple’s legal team put together a comprehensive puzzle of minor infractions formulated into simple questions. Had Samsung merely designed rectangular phones with rounded corners, the jury would have probably taken a more cautious approach and we would have seen a mixed ruling, at least. Needless to say, a mixed ruling would have been much easier to contest in an eventual appeal.

However, jurors merely needed put the pieces of the puzzle together to side with Apple on all claims, hence even the daft “rounded rectangle” patent got a thumbs up, thanks to Samsung, not Apple.

Peter Scott

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