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Victory for Apple, but Samsung takes a bite


14th Jul 2014

Following on from our report on patent litigation in Japan between Apple and Samsung, 2nd May 2014 saw a federal jury in San Jose, California hand down the latest decision in the US version in the now infamous ‘smartphone wars’. In this round, Samsung has been ordered to pay $119.6 million for infringing three of Apple’s patents, including almost $100 million their so-called ‘quick links‘ patent and $3 million for their ‘slide to unlock‘ patent, the latter of which was recently found to be invalid by a German court. The court also ordered Apple to pay $158,000 for infringing one of Samsung’s patents (here) acquired from Hitachi.

Whilst $119.6 million is relatively modest compared to the almost $1 billion Apple were awarded in the first iteration of US litigation in 2012, the result may appear, at first sight, to be a victory for Apple. However, considering Apple had initially sought $2.2 billion in damages, Samsung are unlikely to view the result as a significant loss. The $119.6 million figure represents just 5.4% of what Apple had hoped for, and may not far exceed their legal costs. Further, whilst neither side will care much about the $158,000 sum that Apple must pay, Samsung are likely to see the decision as a moral victory, not least because it is the first time Apple has been found to have infringed one of their patents (other than their standard-essential patents).

An interesting storyline that emerged during and since the trial is in connection with Google and its open-source platform, Android, which runs on the majority of smartphones, including those made by Samsung. Commentators have long thought that Apple is using litigation against Samsung to attack Google and make Android a less attractive option to manufacturers. This trial saw Google and Android take centre stage, with both Apple and Samsung producing evidence of each other’s marketing plans, company memos and executive emails. At one stage Samsung, whose arguments included mention that Apple’s real issue was with Android and that they should be suing Google, produced emails sent by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs that talked of waging a “holy war” against Google. It also emerged that Google had agreed to “defend and indemnify” Samsung over its use of technology built into the Android operating system.

The sensitive nature of the evidence seemed likely to stoke the flames of the dispute between Apple and Google, however the two sides soon released a joint statement indicating a de-escalation of the situation. According to the statement, Apple and Google have agreed to end all current lawsuits between the two companies, which Google inherited in their 2011 purchase of Motorola Mobility and its patents, and “to work together on some areas of patent reform”. Notably, however, the statement specified that the two sides have not reached an agreement on cross licensing of patents, and does not reach as far as the dispute between Apple and Samsung.

With litigation between Apple and Samsung continuing around the world, the smartphone wars are certainly not over yet. However, with something of a setback in the US, and with an apparent de-escalation between Apple and Google, it will be interesting to see how much further Apple will choose to go.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking before any action in reliance on it.

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