Thursday, August 30, 2012

Apple v. Samsung

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

So the die is now cast against Samsung and the reason is that Samsung is an Asian and not an American company. At least that is the clearest message one gets from the recently concluded Apple v. Samsung suit in California.

I am an I-phone user and I consider Android Phones at best a cheap immitation but I fear that the judgment awarding Apple US $ 1 billion in damages is not only too excessive but it amounts to a judicial intervention in competition. How can rectangles with rounded corners be a patent upheld by a court of law? Perhaps the courts should also consider awarding billions of dollars in damages to XEROX whose personal computer design Apple stole many moons ago.

Not long ago, Samsung had motioned a UK court to seek a declaration saying that its tablet etc were not similar to Apple's I-Pad. The Judge in a pithy comment declared that Samsung's Galaxy tablet was not cool enough or user friendly enough to be confused with an Apple I-Pad. The same is true of I-phones v. Galaxy Phones. Galaxy Phones just don't have the same user friendly touch experience that I-phones do. This is the long and short of it. There is no question that jury's decision will be seen not just as excessive but also biased - after all Apple is a home-company born and bred in the Silicon Valley and Samsung is a North Korean giant. The logical next step for Apple seems to be litigation against Google - which has acquired Motorola.

The most disturbing element of the judgment is the 3 patents that were held to have been violated by Samsung- rectangle with rounded corners? The patent 504889 is a single line design patent which speaks of a "rectangular cuboid with rounded corners". Really? Has there never been a rectangular cuboid with rounded corners patented as a design?  Is  What next? The colours "black" and "white"?  Design patents as a general rule are not taken as seriously as utility patents the little I know of patent laws. Design patents cover only ornamental aspects.

Of course it must be remembered that Apple and Samsung have been at it for a while in various courts around the world, including Japan, Germany, Netherlands, UK and US. The patent wars have been a disgusting affair really in terms of what it does to technology, competition and innovation. Notably the German Courts had ruled in Apple's favour granting it an injunction on the basis of utility patents.  This verdict - i.e. US verdict- however is ludicrous in terms of law and economics.

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