Apple v. Samsung: What the Verdict Means for You and the Tech Industry
(NEW YORK) — The verdict in the landmark Apple v. Samsung case was a major win for Apple — the jury finding that many of Samsung’s phones and tablets copied Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and recommended that Samsung pay Apple over $1 billion in damages.
But it’s not just Samsung that is going to pay and it’s certainly not just about money (although Samsung’s stock price has dropped over the past few days). The impact could ripple out from the company to the rest of the mobile industry, and ultimately to the technology you buy or own.
There’s one thing many industry analysts agree on in the wake of the verdict: there’s going to have to be more innovation in mobile devices. Plain and simple: products will have to start to look different from the iPhone and iPad.
“The jury reaffirmed Apple’s claim that the design may be obvious when you see it but it takes work, vision and refinement to make it all come together as an experience. At the moment the only handset vendors that probably aren’t concerned long term are Nokia and RIM,” Michael Gartenberg, research director at the market research firm Gartner, told ABC News.
“With Apple patents being upheld, this will force the larger industry toward greater innovation and differentiation. If you’re a CE [consumer electronics] vendor thinking of ‘borrowing’ any aspect of Apple design, you might want to think twice.”
Nilay Patel, a former patent attorney and managing editor of The Verge, a technology publication, has said the same, and points out that Apple’s competitors have already begun to change their new products to protect themselves.
“I think Apple’s proven that its case about copying is very strong; we are already seeing software features change,” Patel told ABC News. “I am sure we are going to see other software changes. I also believe we are going to see a highly differentiated hardware design.”
During the trial, Apple’s lawyers pointed to phones made by Nokia — the Lumia 900 in particular — to illustrate its point that not all phones had to be made to look like the iPhone.
Google’s Android operating system was a center point in this trial. It is used in more mobile devices than any other, including all the Samsung products in dispute in this case. A number of Android features, including the way users have to move their fingers to zoom in or out on their screens, were found to infringe on Apple’s patents.
“I think Apple’s ultimate target is not just Samsung but the Android ecosystem. They view Google as their ultimate competitor, this is a setback for all of Android,” Mark Lemley, a law professor at Stanford University, told ABC News.
With that in mind, some analysts believe that could be a major boon for Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system.
“The Samsung-Apple verdict was good for Microsoft’s Windows Phone,” said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights, in an interview with ABC News. “Not only is Microsoft free and clear of legal encumbrances, the once ‘free’ Android is looking more expensive every day when you add the Microsoft license fee plus a potential Apple license fee.”
Microsoft employees even tweeted that reaction after the verdict was announced. “Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now,” Bill Cox, Sr. Director of Marketing Communications for the Windows Phone, tweeted after the verdict. Microsoft’s next version of Windows Phone — Windows Phone 8 — is expected to hit in the next couple of weeks. Popular Android handset makers, including Samsung and HTC, already sell Windows Phone devices.
Google, on the other hand, said it doesn’t believe the verdict will have far-reaching impact on its operating system. “The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office,” Google said in a statement.
But those are longer-term changes. More immediately, there is a good chance that Samsung products that infringed on Apple’s patents will be pulled from store shelves as Apple has been seeking an injunction against their sale.
Since the law moves slowly, though, many of the products in question aren’t on the market anymore. Today Apple announced it is seeking a ban on the following Samsung phones: Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 (AT&T), Galaxy S2 (Skyrocket), Galaxy S2 (T-Mobile), Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and the Galaxy Prevail. The Galaxy S2 phone is no longer available at many carriers; the new Galaxy S III and Galaxy Nexus hadn’t been released yet when the suit was filed, and were not considered in this case.
That said, Lemley believes Apple will attempt to go after those newer handsets in the injunction. “Is it limited just to these products or does it prevent Samsung from implementing it into other products?” Lemley said.
Samsung could also be forced to make software updates to existing products to alter some of the features cited in the suit. Samsung was forced to issue an update on its Galaxy Nexus phone earlier this summer for similar reasons.
But if you have a Samsung phone, don’t toss it just yet. Before all of this happens, Samsung is expected to appeal the decision.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio