The Billion Dollar Game: Samsung and Apple fight it out

24’th Aug 2012 was another milestone date indicating the value that IP can (of course in geographies that have respect and appreciation for IP!!!) hold and govern for a corporate. More than the award, it’s the injunction and respect for IP that matters and boosts the confidence of Corporates that have innovation as a core philosophy of their existence. The story of contention between Apple and Samsung is not new and has been on in various geographies for over 2 years now but the verdict of last Friday did make waves, tremors of which would have surely been felt strongly in South Korea as well. Apple was awarded USD 1.05 Billion in damages and it was found that Samsung was infringing on valid design and utility patents. Although the hearing for an injunction (to be given by a judge and not jury) is due for 20’th of September this year, such a unanimous decision by the jury on almost all patents being used by Apple is sure to increase the probability of getting injunctions on most tablet/smart-phone products of Samsung.

Although the jury did mention that Apple could not prove that Samsung had broken any antitrust laws or violated its agreements with the UMTS standards bodies and also that Samsung couldn’t have enforced ‘516 and ‘941 3GPP patents against Apple due to “patent exhaustion”, the mandate of this article would be to give a brief on the patents that Apple was able to enforce against most devices of Samsung including Galaxy S II variants, Galaxy S, Galaxy Tabs, Galaxy S 4G, Gem, Indulge, Mesmerize, Nexus, and Vibrant among many others.

US 7,469,381, which relates to a window bounce back feature, is the biggest bet for Apple as Claim 19 of ‘381 led to most infringement counts of Samsung products. Claim 19 states:

19. A device, comprising:

a touch screen display;

one or more processors;

memory;

and one or more programs, wherein the one or more programs are stored in the memory and configured to be executed by the one or more processors,

the programs including:

instructions for displaying a first portion of an electronic document;

instructions for detecting a movement of an object on or near the touch screen display; instructions for translating the electronic document displayed on the touch screen display in a first direction to display a second portion of the electronic document, wherein the second portion is different from the first portion, in response to detecting the movement; instructions for displaying an area beyond an edge of the electronic document and displaying a third portion of the electronic document…in response to the edge of the electronic document being reached while…; and

instructions for translating the electronic document in a second direction until the area beyond the edge of the electronic document is no longer displayed to display a fourth portion of the electronic document.

The primary mandate of this patent is to show an area beyond the edge of the document when the movement of an object is continued and reaches an edge.

Most but not all products of Samsung also infringed on a zooming and scrolling Patent US 7,844,915 ‘915 of Apple. The contended claim 8 of Apple claims the following subject matter:

Claim 8. A machine-readable storage medium storing executable program instructions which when executed cause a data processing system to perform a method comprising:

receiving user input, the user input is one or more input points applied to a touch-sensitive display that is integrated with the data processing system;

creating an event object in response to the user input;

determining whether the event object invokes a scroll or gesture operation by distinguishing between a single input point applied to the touch-sensitive display that is interpreted as the scroll operation and two or more input points applied to the touch-sensitive display that is interpreted as the gesture operation….

Yet another patent that was successfully enforced is tap to zoom patent US 7,864,163 (’163) of Apple, of whose the cited claim 50 claims:

50. A portable electronic device, comprising:

a touch screen display;

one or more processors;

memory;

and one or more programs… wherein the structured electronic document comprises a plurality of boxes of content… instructions for detecting a first gesture at a location on the displayed portion of the structured electronic document; instructions for determining the first box in the plurality of boxes at the location of the first gesture; instructions for enlarging and translating the structured electronic document so that the first box is substantially centered on the touch screen display…

Apart from the utility patents discussed above, four other design patents were successfully enforced by Apple. D618,677 as shown on the right covers the basic shape of the iPhone.

D 593,087 also claims the shape of the iphone and an exemplary shape, as claimed, is shown on the left.

Finally, D604,305 (‘305) Patent covers the trade dress registration of the iPhone’s home screen

Further, a quick look at Samsung’s Fascinate on the left, against which the maximum monetary award of USD 1, 43, 539, 179 were awarded, could probably give us at least an idea on the potential infringement on the design patents:

Conclusion:

The key takes away for the moment is for relatively smaller companies that are playing in the touch screen space. With Apple’s patents being held valid and enforceable, utility patents, typically which relate to zooming and scrolling (‘915) need to be kept closely monitored. The other two utility patents covering the bounce back and tap to zoom features can still be designed around (possibly) along with the UI (especially covered through D’305) so as develop a non-infringing method of implementing the same features.

About the Author: Tarun Khurana, Patent Attorney, available at tarun@khuranaandkhurana.com

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