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Apple vs Samsung Patent Trial: What's at Stake

David Price July 30, 2012
Apple vs Samsung Patent Trial: What's at Stake
Massive Apple-Samsung mobile patent trial starts in US on Monday.

The big Apple-Samsung patent trial begins in the US on Monday. What are the arguments, what's at stake, who's likely to win, and where will this leave the mobile industry as a whole?

It feels like mobile giants Apple and Samsung have been suing each other since the dawn of time, but the really big patent trial between the companies -- debating whether Samsung copied the design patents of the iPhone and iPad -- begins in California on Monday.

We've summarized each side's arguments below, and have attempted to explain what Apple and Samsung stand to win or lose in this titanic legal battle, how likely each outcome is, and the likely effect on the tablet and smartphone markets. Not to mention the technology industry, and its heavy reliance on vigorous patent enforcement, as a whole.

What's This Patent Trial All About?

Design patents on mobile technology products, basically. Apple reckons Samsung copied its designs for the iPhone and iPad, then got rich off the resulting products. Or richer. It wasn't a pauper to start with.

Sounds like a pretty straightforward case. If they've got the patents, it's open and shut.
Ha! Good one. New to patent law, are you?

Variants on this basic argument, and extensions and offshoots of it, have been whirling around the world's courts for years, with different judges reaching often-contradictory verdicts in different territories. In the UK, for instance, Apple was ordered to take out expensive adverts admitting that Samsung didn't copy the iPad, although this was later overturned, whereas German courts have banned the EU sale of Samsung Galaxy Tabs, on the basis that they infringe Apple design patents. Riddle me that one, if you can.

Patents tend to be very complicated, often vague and horribly subjective. One thing they're not is "open and shut."

Apple's Position

Okay, so it's going to be thrillingly complex. Baffle me with some legal arguments. Let's start with Apple's position.

Apple reckons Samsung took rather heavy-handed (or light-fingered) "inspiration" from the design of the iPhone and iPad, and then made billions of dollars selling derivative products (and cost Apple hundreds of millions in lost sales).

Apple's brief for the trial has some great snippets about innovation. The Wall Street Journal has more of these, but here are some highlights:

"Samsung cannot change the central fact that its products are strikingly similar to Apple's patented designs. Nor can it change the novelty and extraordinary success of Apple's designs. Samsung will instead attempt to confuse the issues with a hodgepodge of defenses based on incorrect legal standards. Samsung's defenses will fail."

"Samsung's documents show that the similarity of Samsung's products is no accident or, as Samsung would have it, a 'natural evolution'. Rather, it results from Samsung's deliberate plan to free-ride on the iPhone's and iPad's extraordinary success by copying their iconic designs and intuitive user interface."

Source: Macworld U.K.