It's not the first stumbling block since Apple were awarded a paltry $1 billion in damages for alleged patent infringements but it is a significant one. You see, the basis of the argument is that Samsung infringed six specific patents. Many hours of legal argument have been spent on this topic in three different countries with three different results, but the US result that awarded the eye watering fine is the most spectacular.
That result is being challenged at the moment because the Jury foreman at the trial is alleged to have failed to declare an incident that may have prejudiced his opinion about Samsung. Apparently Seagate, a company Samsung bought into a year or so ago, dismissed the man about ten years earlier resulting in his bankruptcy. From what I have read, the man wasn't asked a direct question that would have revealed the link, but that's one for the lawyers to work out for certain.
Then there are the two non-US court cases over the patents; the South Korean courts found that both Apple and Samsung had stolen ideas from each other and awarded each fairly trivial damages. The UK high court, in a ruling that is applicable across the whole European Union, found no case to answer. In fact, they forced Apple to make a statement on its UK website and in selected UK newspapers stating that no infringement had taken place, a statement Apple made eventually after some prodding from the court.
And now the US Patent Office have decided that at least one of the six patents Apple claim were infringed was not a unique patent, that is, there were earlier patents that covered the same ground. Probably not identical, but close enough to demonstrate that it wasn't a unique idea. The patent was for the 'pinch to zoom' feature that is popular in many smartphones and tablets, and increasingly used in crime dramas on oversized capacitance screens - like public law enforcement agencies can afford that level of technology in this current economy!
And the other patents? Well, one appears to be around the concept of a rectangular shaped device with rounded corners. I think Hershey or Cadbury could challenge that idea quite easily. OK, they never used the shape on a mobile phone but they did make objects that shape that people wanted to put near their mouths and loved. Certainly the UK courts weren't too supportive to Apple on this matter, stating that Apple's products were cooler than Samsung's, but not infringed.
And there was the App bounce-back that Apple use to show you've reached the last page of Apps. Somewhere between Newton's Laws of Motion and Einstein's Theory of Relativity sits the model for a dimensionless, massless image travelling towards an implied theoretical wall. Another failure to impress the UK courts, it seems.
This is probably a hiccup in this long running saga that doesn't give many clues to the ultimate outcome. I suspect that by the time a final binding decision is made the technology being argued about will be as relevant as a Betamax recorder is today and $1 billion won't be enough to buy a round of coffees at Starbucks. In fact, I suspect we're almost at that threshold right now.
At least, as far as the round at Starbucks is concerned.
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