Hot news from the world of Apple
After a particularly lengthy period of disagreement over the design of the Samsung Galaxy, Apple and its rival jointly announced: "This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in US courts.” This means claims are being abandoned in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands, the UK, France and Italy.
This follows years of litigation between the companies in courts in the UK, Germany, US, Korea, Japan and beyond.
The dispute between the two corporations began when Apple found Samsung’s Galaxy devices to “slavishly imitate” its own iOS devices, a point it later won in the US courts. Despite this partial victory, both firms have faced repeated pressure from judges to find a settlement to their dispute, rather than navigate their disagreement through the legal system.
While neither firm has achieved decisive victory in any jurisdiction, the long-standing litigation has called into question the foundation of the entire patent system in an era defined by fast-
moving technological innovation. Apple secured key victories in the two California suits, including a $930 million verdict in 2012 and a $120 million fine against Samsung this year.
Samsung’s attempt to defend itself with claims that Apple has used patents the Korean firm had previously chosen to make available on nonpartisan basis to all comers within industry standard 3G patent packages, has seen Samsung fall foul of competition regulators, who have declared that defence invalid.
Earlier in June, Apple and Samsung reached a deal to abandon both firms’ appeals against a US International Trade Commission decision that imposed an import ban on some older Samsung phones. In a related move, Apple and Google (developer of the Android OS) agreed to abandon ongoing lawsuits that related to the Google-owned Motorola Mobility.
The disagreement between Samsung and Apple is deep. Apple has replaced Samsung as its primary components and display manufacturer, which has impacted the profitability of the Korean conglomerate’s processor-making division.
Looks bad on paper…
The various legal cases have unveiled a huge quantity of internal company documents, much of which confirm Samsung was intensely focused on introducing a smartphone that matched the iPhone.
With their relationship on the rocks, it would be a mistake to assume the decision to leave final judgment of Apple’s accusation that Samsung has copied its products to the US means permanent peace. Speaking to Bloomberg, law professor Michael Risch warned
“Apple and Samsung have no time to waste and it’s time to get back to work” Lee Seung Woo
this could mean both parties are simply “taking a breather before the next skirmish.”
The battle between the two isn’t confined to the courts. Apple’s forthcoming iPhone 6 is already the most desired smartphone among 22% of Chinese consumers, while 40% of US consumers planning a smartphone purchase said they were “somewhat” or “very” likely to buy one. Samsung’s high-end smartphone sales are relatively weak – sales of its top-of-the-range device compete with those of Apple’s “failed” iPhone 5C. Huawei, LG and others, meanwhile, are damaging sales of Samsung’s low-end devices.
“The whole industry paradigm is changing,” IBK Securitues analyst, Lee Seung Woo, told Bloomberg. “Apple and Samsung have no time to waste and it’s time to get back to work.” Meanwhile, the iPhone’s US share of smartphone subscribers remains relatively consistent at 41.4% (comScore) while Samsung remains near 27%, mostly buoyed by low-end device sales. Apple profits eclipse anyone else in the industry and smartphone sales are once again flat as we await the new iPhone. Every user metric seems to show Samsung has failed to achieve the kind of customer satisfaction ratings Apple has on record. This means that peace between the two firms reflects a different kind of victory. It’s possible, at this stage of industry evolution, it matters less Apple prevails in the courts than it has prevailed in the industry. After all, the court cases serve to illustrate the limitations of its competitor’s innovation in the sector. The biggest test in the near future will be the reception received by iPhone 6.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery and Steve Jobs did his best to keep up.