A jury’s decision to award Apple $1.05 billion after finding Samsung violated six patents will make rivals think twice about smartphones and tablets that too closely resemble Apple products.
That could mean delays and hardship for Apple rivals as they scramble to change their roadmaps for products that may be too similar to the iPhone or iPad. They will be forced to create software workarounds to avoid legal pushback from Apple, experts say.
The nine-member jury in the U.S. District Court in San Jose agreed that Samsung violated three key touchscreen patents that have become commonplace in smartphones, such as one that allows users to tap on images and making them bigger and another to pinch an image and enlarge it.
And the legal tussle among rivals is far from over. Samsung, which has vowed to fight the jury decision, faces a separate but perhaps even more daunting hearing scheduled to begin Sept. 20 that could ban Samsung devices with infringing technology from U.S. sales.
Any outcome will negatively affect the South Korean company, some experts say. If Samsung’s smartphones are banned, the company will be forced to change features such as the pinch and zoom technology that Apple says is theirs. And even if U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh doesn’t grant an injuction, Samsung will have to work out royalties for patents that the jury agreed were protected intellectual property belonging to Apple, analysts say.
Add up the delays and fees, and devices could get a bump in price, some experts say.
“The scope of injuctions is not limited to accused products of the action but could apply to any products down the road that could apply and be held liable for contempt of court,” said Florian Mueller, a patent analyst and consultant and author of blog FOSSPatents.
Yet there could be an upside for consumers, other experts say. There may be more choice in the kinds of products available.
“Within a product cycle or two, consumers will begin to see exciting, new and different-looking designs,” said Christopher V. Carani, a partner at the Chicago-based intellectual property law firm McAndrews, Held & Malloy.
“If a permanent injunction is ordered, the Apple victory will create some delay to market for look-alike smartphones that need to be redesigned. But this should be viewed as a perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board,” Carani said.
Apple, emboldened by the jury’s verdict, is pushing to block sales of Samsung devices that infringe its design patents. On Monday, the company will present a list of smartphones and tablets that it wants Koh to ban. The injunction hearing is expected to stretch as long as two months.
And the companies are expected to ask the judge to overturn elements of the jury verdict.
Apple may ask the judge to reconsider a tablet design complaint that the jury denied. It may also seek more money in damages.
Samsung said it is gearing for a extended battle to defend itself.
“We will move immediately to file post-verdict motions to overturn this decision in this court and, if we are not successful, we will appeal this decision to the Court of Appeals,” Samsung said in a statement.
Legal experts say Samsung’s changes are slim at overturning the jury decision.
“There is a strong presumption that the jury was correct and will be reversed only in cases in which the verdict was, essentially, a travesty of justice” said Peter Toren, a patent litigation expert and partner at Weisbrod, Mattheis & Copley in Washington. “There does not appear to be any serious question that the jury’s verdict was wrong in this case. Further, I can’t imagine that Judge Koh would take it upon herself to reverse the verdict in such a high profile case.”