By Seth Fitzgerald / CIO Today. Updated March 31, 2014.
Once again, Apple and Samsung are in court to deal with a new set of patent disputes. Even though Apple initiated the lawsuit and is asking for a $2 billion settlement, Samsung has been firing back with its own complaints, suggesting that Apple has copied some ideas and features.
The companies involved are the largest smartphone manufacturers in the world, so whichever side wins, the marketplace could be greatly impacted.
Unlike previous Apple versus Samsung battles, Google is directly involved and will even be represented in the case. Since Google makes Android, the OS that powers Samsung’s smartphones, it has always been involved to some extent. However, this time, Apple is targeting features that may have been created by Google.
Based on court documents, Apple believes that Samsung has infringed upon five software patents, though according to Samsung, four of those were originally filed by Google. Core features like “slide to unlock” are included in patents held by Apple, but Google allegedly worked on those same features before Apple filed its patents. At least one Google employee, engineer Andy Rubin, is listed as a witness and is therefore expected to defend Samsung.
Even though it may be difficult for Google to prove its case, the topic of standard-essential patents is very much in evidence. Just as in previous lawsuits, Apple is targeting its competitors based on patents that protect very basic software features that are now included in most smartphones.
We caught up with Jeff Kagan, an independent technology analyst, to get his opinion on the latest lawsuit. He told us that this is just another way for companies to compete against each other, and considering the information that has been released, it is difficult to determine what Apple hopes to achieve.
“It's hard to know what the motives are. However, when dealing with people we have seen it all over time," Kagan said. “As far as this case, this is just one more example of tech companies battling it out in the legal system, which is separate from the way they battle it out in the marketplace.”
Out Of Hand
Ever since Apple won an initial legal battle against Samsung in 2012, members of the consumer electronics industry have argued that the U.S. patent system should not protect certain types of software and hardware design features. Without any reform thus far, Apple and many other companies continue to engage in lawsuits based on patents that are protecting industry-standard features.
Slide to unlock, which is included in one of Apple’s patents, is a prime example of a feature that may not contribute to the success of a device but is an obvious inclusion for any smartphone. Apple is not the only company that has engaged in a multitude of patent lawsuits over these industry-standard features, however. Just last month, IPCom attempted to sue Apple over an industry-standard feature and in 2013, Google fought against the Rockstar Consortium, an organization that exists for the sole purpose of filing patent lawsuits.
Judges have landed on both sides of the spectrum when it comes to dealing with patent lawsuits like those filed by IPCom, Apple, and Rockstar. In the current case between Apple and Samsung, a win for either side could result in major OS changes or a ban on infringing devices.