The results of Apple and Samsung’s legal trial are in, and Apple’s looking at a big win – all of their patents have been upheld, the jury sided with them on most issues, and many of Samsung’s devices were found to be infringing on many accounts.
This case has been covered so vigorously because it will have a noticeable impact, and not just on Samsung and Apple: this trial, and the verdict reached by the jury, is likely to impact every company operating in the mobile devices game, as well as potentially others. The verdict has various effects on the landscape of the mobile devices world, and almost all are in favor of Apple and its iDevices.
First and foremost, Apple is much more dangerous to other companies now than it was before. The jury has accepted the idea that Apple’s trade dress and patents are valid, and this sets the tone for almost every court case that follows in which Apple is involved. This decision has the potential to influence cases for a decade. For years, Apple has engaged in courtroom attacks on various challenging corporations, and this habit seems likely to continue for at least some time. Regardless of the reasons (some argue that these companies deserve Apple’s wrath for copying them so blatantly, while others disagree with that notion entirely and believe that Apple is doing it merely to cut off competition), corporations such as HTC, Samsung, LG, and even Google will need to be more careful with how they approach Apple’s patent and trade dress hand in court.
The next point is that the jury didn’t see the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as infringing on the design of the iPad. In fact, this is the only high-profile loss that Apple was hit with. As this decision will be considered the precedent, it’s likely that corporations will be able to have a design that more closely resembles the iPad without incurring Apple’s courtroom wrath. This has been happening for a while now, but it should relieve some manufacturers to know that the iPad’s trade dress is likely removed from Apple’s arsenal. Also, remember that Windows 8, Microsoft’s tablet-oriented OS, is just around the corner: the likes of Lenovo and Nokia might be feeling more comfortable with today’s decision.
There has been talk that, since this court case will serve as precedent for affirming Apple’s patents and trade dress, that Google should start to shoulder some of the fees. It is true that Android, even the pure, AOSP version, infringes on various patents by Apple – they’re even suing Samsung for the Galaxy Nexus to prove this. There are now calls that Google should start licensing patents from Apple, and likely vice versa, in order to end this round of frivolous litigation. It’s now apparent that Apple’s patents are valid, at least in the eyes of the law, and that they can be used against other Android OEMs. I do think that there is at least a point to be made about Google doing a cross-licensing deal with Apple – it might be against both companies corporate cultures, but it may be necessary sooner, rather than later.
This may be the final major battle in the “go nuclear against Android” war that Apple has been waging. It may be simply a trick of fate that this decision falls on the day that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, Inc. for the last time, but this may be the victory that Apple was looking for.
There will be changes in Android because of this, and not only in Samsung’s TouchWiz version. But Android isn’t going to disappear – the ecosystem of Google’s OS is too strong, the userbase is too entrenched, and frankly, many of the devices are too good for Apple to simply sue the entire platform out of existence. While this may have been their hope at one point, they must know that it’s impossible. It’s a fools’ goal, and they don’t have a lot to gain by keeping so many court cases active – lawyers cost money, and it takes a tax on the entire company.
Apple has asserted itself, legally, as the harbinger of the second generation of smartphones, and the second generation of tablets – it has made its mark on history, and it’s time they do it again. While I don’t buy the argument that Apple has stopped innovating, and has instead chose to fight their battles in the courtroom, I do hope that Apple will return to their roots and bring out a product that truly makes everyone have to go back to the drawing board and start over – I want Apple to throw the entire industry into a crisis of design. Because, regardless of how many court cases they win, that’s the Apple I’ll always have a soft spot for.