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Samsung Flounders in Shadow of Apple's Patent Juggernaut

By Rachelle Dragani MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Oct 17, 2011 11:07 AM PT

The patent disputes between Apple and Samsung became even more heated during recent U.S. federal proceedings when a judge declared that Samsung's Galaxy Tab infringes on some of Apple's iPad patents.

Samsung Flounders in Shadow of Apple's Patent Juggernaut

However, the judge added that Apple will have to do more to establish the validity of its patents before a final decision about an injunction can be made.

The two companies are embroiled in disputes in 10 countries over 20 patents in both the tablet and smartphone markets. Samsung said it will continue fighting in the court cases and appeal decisions as necessary in a statement provided to MacNewsWorld by Rachel Quinlan, a communications person for Samsung.

The South Korean company also announced Monday it will seek to ban Apple's recently released iPhone 4S in Japan and Australia, citing one data usage patent and three interface ones.

Heavyweight Fight

Apple and Samsung are battling over two types of patents: design and utility. The U.S. judge denied an injunction on one of the utility-based patents but has yet to make a decision on the rest. Australian and German courts have already banned the Galaxy Tab based on design.

The design patent dispute was the source of an embarrassing occurrence in a San Jose, Calif., federal court Thursday. At one point the judge held up one of each tablet in her hands and asked Samsung's attorneys whether they could tell the difference, according to a Reuters report. One replied that she could not differentiate between the two from her spot about 10 feet away from the podium.

Apple's legal team argues that the appearance and aesthetics of the iPad revolutionized the tablet market, and Samsung shouldn't be allowed to reap the benefits of Apple's innovative design.

The demonstration probably won't be the final blow in the design patent case, but it played into Apple's strategy of attacking from all fronts.

"The identification blunder probably had relatively little impact but did at some subliminal level reinforce Apple's argument that the product configurations are so similar as to confuse a buyer," Steven J. Henry, IP attorney at Wolf Greenfield, told MacNewsWorld.

Taking Control of the Market

Whatever Apple's long-term goals are from the patent disputes, it's clear the company sees its competitors' appeal and is pulling out all the stops to assert its market control.

Google's Android operating system is enticing for developers and carriers since it's a quality system that can be sold at lower prices than Apple products. Though Apple is a favorite among a loyal fan base, Android devices collectively have a strong lead in smartphone market share, and Samsung is one of the manufacturing leaders of those devices.

Microsoft, however, has been able to extract licensing fees from Android device manufacturers based on its own patents, and Apple could be eying something similar.

"With a reported 550,000 Android devices per day being activated, that translates to a potential revenue of about (US)$1 billion per year from a $5 per device royalty. Certainly a worthwhile goal in itself," said Henry.

The fees would no doubt be lucrative, but Apple is already sitting on a hefty pile of cash and would rather eliminate competition than allow companies such as Samsung, HTC or the latest to enter the tablet market, Amazon, to use its ideas for further profit.

A more likely scenario is that Apple, at least in the short term as the holiday buying season inches closer, is trying to knock down Samsung as much as possible to capture a huge percentage of the tablet and mobile market share.

"I would think the end goal is to kill off infringing competitors. I think Apple does not want to license out any technology. The more innovation that Apple can keep in its walled garden, the better for shareholders," Craig Delsack, a lawyer specializing in business, technology and media, told MacNewsWorld.

The time and resources Apple is putting into this worldwide fight is an indication the company views Samsung as a serious threat.

"Apple is engaging in a classic assertion of intellectual property rights. What is unusual is that it is fighting internationally on multiple fronts at the same time against the same defendant. Once would be reasonable to conclude it has targeted Samsung because of the threat the Galaxy tablet represents and the vast array of intellectual property it can throw against the Galaxy. However, the message is not lost on others," said Henry.

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