At the end of a lengthy, acrimonious and tedious court case, the South Korean legal system has delivered a slap across the chops of both Apple and Samsung and fined them for infringing one another's patents. You'd need a heart of stone not to laugh. By Martyn Warwick.
In recent years the global telecoms industry has been twisted out of shape by a seemingly endless series of legal wrangles over intellectual property and mobile comms patents. It has been unedifying, boring, expensive, largely pointless and has distracted manufacturers and vendors, distorted markets, angered consumers and delayed the introduction of improved and new technologies.
Earlier today a panel of three judges sitting in Seoul's Central District Court ruled that Apple infringed two technology patents owned by Samsung and also that Samsung infringed one of Apple's patents.
The case centred on allegations by Apple that Korea's Samsung had stolen and copied significant parts of the design of the iPhone - including its shape. The Seoul court decided that had not happened and dismissed Apple's claim. However, the court also imposed a ban on the sale in South Korea of various iterations of various handsets, smartphones and tablet computers made by Apple and by Samsung. These include the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4, the iPad and 12 different models from Samsung's 'Galaxy" suite of smartphones and tablets.
The sanctions do not cover the most most recent models such as Apple's iPhone 4S and iPad 3, and Samsung’s Galaxy SIII.
A reasonable and appropriate ruling you might think but the reality is that there's no real sting in the tail for either company because A) it relates only to old models that are now selling slowly and in comparatively small numbers and B) the fines (25 million Won for Samsung and 40 million Won for Apple which translates into US$22,000 and $35,000 respectively) are risible.
In all, the court rejected nine of Apple's claims and one of the judges, Bae Joon-Hyun, commented, “The rest of the claims are invalid because most features already appeared in previous inventions by Japanese companies and European firms.”
The ruling also states that there is "no possibility" that consumers would confuse Samsung smartphones with Apple's iPhones.
For its part, Samsung was pleased with the court's verdict and issued a statement saying the judgement “affirms our position that one single company cannot monopolise generic design features”.
Apple, which started the ball rolling by getting litigious on Samsung's arse has not commented on the knock-back and, of course, the South Korean court's decision is appealable.
That said, the focus will now shift to the US and the next round of this interminable global spat. In a similar case being heard in San Jose, California, Apple is claiming two billion bucks in damages from Samsung for "patent infringement" while Samsung is counter-suing and claiming US$500 million in reparation from Apple. The jury is out on that case. It retired to consider it's verdict earlier this week. And who knows we may have a verdict and an appeal by Christmas.
The Korean and Californian court cases are but the latest rounds in a marathon bout of litigation that the two companies have been indulging-in for several years past. The same sort of scenarios have previously been played out in Australia, Germany and Japan so there's a lot of courtroom's in lots of countries that could stage the next act is this ongoing exercise in hubris. It is indeed, Patently Absurd.
please sign in to rate this article