According to the Associated Press, Samsung of South Korea prevailed in its global smartphone infringement case against Apple, Inc. in mid-August 2012 when judges in Seoul Central District Court stated the multinational company did not violate intellectual property laws relating to the look and feel of the iPhone. Look and feel violations are usually based on trademark law. The court said Apple infringed on the company’s wireless technology.
There was a split decision on patents. The judges said Samsung violated Apple’s ’381 bounce-back patent. The patent relates to a feature that causes a screen to bounce back when a user scrolls to an end image. The court banned sales of Samsung products using the technology, including the Galaxy S2, in South Korea. According to Bryan Bishop on The Verge, during trial, an expert witness provided a lengthy look at the application. The expert, a faculty member at Brown University since 1965, took the jury through the elements specified in the ’381 patent. The expert rendered an opinion that the patent was invalid due to prior art.
The court ordered each party to pay damages to the other, and partially ban sales of products including iPads and smartphones. Samsung must pay Apple 25 million won ($22,000). Apple must pay Samsung 40 million won ($35,250). The court ruling did not affect the Apple’s iPhone 4S or Samsung’s Galaxy S3, the latest-generation phones.
The Seoul Central District Court ruling affects just the South Korean market. South Korea is not a huge iPhone market for Apple. In the United States, Apple is suing Samsung for $2.5 billion, in San Jose, CA. Apple claims Samsung created illegal knockoffs of iPhones and iPads. Knockoff claims are usually based on copyright laws. The South Korea ruling is unlikely to have a huge impact on the jury in the United States. The lawsuit was filed in April 2011. Samsung denied Apple’s claims. Apple demands Samsung pulls its most popular smartphones and computer tablets from the United States market.
Samsung’s arguments that Apple infringed on its wireless technology patents were previously rejected by courts in Europe, including Netherlands, France, Italy and Germany. In Europe, judges ruled the Samsung technology must be licensed under fair terms to competitors. The courts in Europe stated that standard-essential patents are a crucial for new companies in the industry. The competitors need to make products compatible with the rest of the market. This means the patented technology must be licensed under fair and reasonable terms. In early 2012, Europe’s anti-trust regulator commenced an investigation into whether Samsung failed to license its patents under fair and reasonable terms.
The ruling on Samsung’s patented technology in South Korea ordered Apple to remove the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1 and iPad 2 from retailers in South Korea. The victory ruling for Samsung said the Apple products infringed two of Samsung’s five patents, including patents for telecommunications technology.
The Seoul court denied Apple’s allegation that Samsung illegally copied its iPhone design. The court ruled the big rectangular screens in cases with rounded corners existed in products prior to the iPhone and iPad. The court also stated individual icons in the Samsung products did not seem similar to icons used in the Apple iPhone. A spokesman for Samsung, welcomed the ruling by saying: “Today’s ruling also affirmed our position that one single company cannot monopolize generic design features.”
Samsung surpassed Apple in less than three years in the smartphone markets. According to IDC, in the second quarter of 2012, Samsung sold 50.2 million units of smartphones, almost twice as much as Apple’s 26 million units. Besides being competitors in the smartphones and tablet computers markets, Apple and Samsung have a business relationship. Samsung, the world’s largest manufacturer of memory chips and liquid crystal displays, supplies key components, including mobile chips that go into Apple products.