Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has just delivered a decisive blow to Samsung with its landmark victory against its biggest rival and supplier over Sammy's copycat ways. This was the highest-profile legal battle Apple has embarked upon in its "thermonuclear" war against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Android. Thus far, Apple hasn't targeted Google itself with its patent assaults, instead choosing to go for the device makers that proliferate the Android platform at breathtaking speed.
Along with everyone else, those in the Android camp has been sitting at the edge of their seats and watching the events unfold, as its outcome has potentially serious ramifications for their top and bottom lines and their Android businesses just got a lot riskier from a legal perspective.
A tale of two press statements
Samsung naturally defended itself, expressing its discontent with the verdict in its official statement to the press:
Today's verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer. It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices. It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. Consumers have the right to choices, and they know what they are buying when they purchase Samsung products. This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple's claims. Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.
Source: The Verge.
While not directly involved in the case, Google has now also issued a statement on the outcome, as one of its most successful Android champions is taking a billion-dollar hit for the team:
The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being reexamined by the US Patent Office. The mobile industry is moving fast and all players -- including newcomers -- are building upon ideas that have been around for decades. We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don't want anything to limit that.
Source: The Verge.
Google's words are a clear move to assuage fears among its army of Android OEMs, hoping to stop them from making eyes with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows Phone as the next best thing. It's kind of like the search giant saying: "It's cool, guys. This isn't an Android problem; it's a Samsung problem. Nothing to see here -- carry on building Android devices en masse."
It may be a semantic argument, but the fact that "most of" Apple's patents in the case don't relate to Android is true, but some inevitably do. The design patents related to industrial design and how the gadgets physically look certainly don't apply to Android, but there were some notable software patents included that seem like they would. Full disclosure: I'm not a patent lawyer, despite how many times I've tried to play one on TV.
Apple's "scroll-back" effect, when a user tries to scroll past the edge of a page and it gently bounces back, is mostly specific to Samsung. Google has been careful recently to design stock Android around some of Apple's patented features, including the "scroll-back" effect along with its "slide-to-unlock" function. Apple actually licensed this "scroll-back" patent to Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) and extended licensing terms to Samsung as part of prior settlement talks, except Samsung and Apple couldn't reach an agreement and Samsung decided to keep a feature it knew was patented.
Three out of the seven total patents do sound like they pertain to Android, though. One covers tapping to zoom a specific area when multiple content areas are present ("tap-to-zoom"), another covers distinguishing between single-touch and multitouch gestures ("pinch-to-zoom"), and the last one covers the general grid layout for icons. Android may be safer from the grid layout one, as its interface has long used widgets and other customizable features beyond the strict grid that iOS uses.
To a patent layman like myself, these three appear to relate to Android itself, but that'll be up to the patent lawyers, experts, and engineers to decide, especially since sometimes it comes down to the technical implementation.
Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Android has layers.
Judging from Google's language that "most" don't relate, it sounds like an admission that some of the patents do relate to "core Android." Otherwise, Big G would have said something along the lines of "none of them relate to core Android."
The tricky part is that there are almost always at least two layers of Android: stock Android, which is on Google, and then the plethora of modified Android versions, after carriers and/or OEMs add their own features for differentiation. In Samsung's case, most of its transgressions were indeed specific to itself, but that doesn't mean Android is in the clear.
Apple's patent war will continue, fueled by this victory, which is one reason the iPhone maker's growth run isn't over yet. Grab this brand-new premium report on Apple and get free updates at no additional cost.