Q&A with Margaret Millikin
Apple's patent case against Samsung may affect consumers
Q: What were the key issues in the patent case that Apple brought against Samsung?
A: The case is a legal war over patent rights in smartphone and tablet technology. Apple sued Samsung for infringing three utility patents and four design patents, which cover Apple products. A utility patent protects the utilitarian aspect of an invention — the way it operates or the new combination of elements that comprise it. A design patent protects the unique, ornamental features of invention — the way it looks. Apple's iPhone smartphone is protected by both types of patents. Apple accused Samsung of willfully copying iPhone technology, such as double tapping an image to zoom, and incorporating it into Android smartphones and tablets. In response, Samsung claimed that Apple's patents were invalid and accused Apple of infringing Samsung's patents.
Q: Were you surprised at the outcome?
A: The jury found in Apple's favor on almost every issue and awarded the largest jury verdict in history — $1.05 billion, an amount that raised the eyebrows of many who have been following the case. The jury determined that Samsung infringed all but one of the Apple patents asserted in the lawsuit and that the infringement was willful in some instances, which led to the large verdict. They also found Apple's patents were valid, and that Samsung's patents were not infringed.
Q: What effect do you expect Apple's win to have on consumers?
A: Samsung has been the leader in smartphone sales over the past several years, so the verdict may swing the balance of competitive power to Apple, which is what a patent is supposed to do for the patentee. A patent gives the owner the right to exclude others from practicing the invention for a period of years, and in exchange the patentee makes public the technology. With the verdict, Apple could seek import bans on Samsung phones and tablets utilizing Apple technology. However, not all of Samsung's products are affected by the ruling. In the main, Samsung's older model phones are enjoined, but newer products are exempt from the ruling. These newer, flashier models are still available for sale in the U.S.