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Samsung Dodges Another Apple Patent Bullet

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 22, 2011 11:51 AM PT

A judge in Dusseldorf, Germany, has reportedly issued a preliminary ruling stating that minor tweaks Samsung made to its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet's design mean the device no longer violates Apple's European patents on the iPad.

Samsung Dodges Another Apple Patent Bullet

That means, in essence, that Samsung can continue selling the redesigned tablet, designated the "Galaxy Tab 10.1N," in the European market.

Earlier this month, a regional court in Mannheim, Germany, ruled against Apple and in favor of Motorola Mobility on a patent regarding technology that's essential to wireless communications. On Tuesday, the United States International Trade Commission ruled that HTC had violated an Apple patent.

However, like Samsung, HTC is making a minor tweak to its devices to get out from under the ruling.

All Warfare Is Based on Deception

Apple's patent litigation strategy is crucial to its competitiveness in the global smartphone market because "copyists and follow-on competition needs to be thwarted ... and patents are the tool of choice," said Raymond Van Dyke, a Washington, D.C.-based technology attorney and consultant.

Apple's court wins means "companies have to redesign or design around features found infringing, driving up their costs," Van Dyke told MacNewsWorld.

"Alternatively, they may seek a license for those features without a good design," Van Dyke added. "Either way, their costs go up, making Apple's products more competitive."

Corporations can use litigation to meet various goals, including vindication, protection of market share, and to curtail the competition, Van Dyke stated.

Stepping in a Slide Zone

HTC says it intends to work around the technology the ITC ruled it violated in Apple's patent. The company reportedly expects to be able to implement this workaround in time to beat the April 2012 deadline when the ITC ruling takes effect.

Meanwhile, Samsung, only had to change the Galaxy Tab 10.1's bezel, put the speakers in the front of the device and rename it the "Galaxy Tab 10.1N" to get the preliminary nod from the court in Dusseldorf. A final ruling is expected Feb. 9.

In other words, the burden of meeting the requirements of court rulings in Apple's favor has so far been relatively light.

"There apparently won't be too much of a delay, if any at all, in time to market, nor does there seem to be much to do by way of having to make major changes to production lines," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told MacNewsWorld.

The preliminary ruling in Samsung's favor "at least suggests there may be a path around Apple," Enderle said. However, "we are far from the end of this war."

Just Keep Firing?

Android device makers have been putting up a vicious fight in their patent war with Apple. For example, Apple's win against HTC on its so-called 647 patent was the only hit out of 10 patents Cupertino threw at it, patents consultant Florian Mueller pointed out.

Motorola won against Apple in a Mannheim, Germany, court, and a court in Australia has ruled that Samsung can continue selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 there.

However, Apple is still in a strong position.

The lawsuits "continue to showcase Google's weak patent defense, and Samsung is their strongest partner in this regard," Enderle pointed out. "Google will have to develop a significant patent defense, and ... that means either buying or licensing Palm from HP or buying [Research In Motion]."

Further, Apple "has Intel's old chief counsel, and Intel's strategy was scorched earth -- basically using litigation to bleed the competitor dry, win or lose," Enderle remarked. "NEC won, for instance, but had to exit the market anyway."

Apple, Samsung and HTC did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

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