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  • The Apple/Samsung Patent Wars: A Dose of Sanity?

    July 30th, 2014

    So it’s clear that Apple’s ongoing patent war with Samsung, though it has brought some victories, hasn’t actually accomplished anything except create legal bills and enrich the lawyers. The same Samsung gear is being sold, and the company has yet to pay anything to Apple despite being penalized to the tune $929 million as the result of two losses in a California courtroom.. At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem as if an awful lot has been accomplished.

    So in the most recent filing, Apple has decided to drop the cross-appeal of the final judgment from California Federal Judge Lucy Koh, which means in plain English that they aren’t going to seek a ban of Samsung gear. The cross-appeal had been filed because Judge Koh continued to deny the motion to halt the sale of some 23 Samsung devices.

    In the meantime, Samsung will continue to appeal the verdict against them, which would mean, if they get their wishes, they wouldn’t owe Apple any money. Or, as seems to be the case, these actions will go on and on with no final resolution, though Apple’s latest move appears to indicate that the company is prepared to pursue an exit strategy.

    Now it takes two to tango, and Samsung would have to work with Apple to resolve these issues. But just giving up will not stop Samsung from continuing to infringe on Apple’s intellectual property, although this move could be part of a potential settlement between the two warring parties.

    As a practical matter, Apple has the right to sue someone for patent infringement, just as others routinely sue Apple for the same reasons. Indeed, Apple’s relationship with Bose, the audio manufacturer, is now complicated by the fact that the latter is suing Beats Electronics for patent infringement over issues concerning noise-canceling technology. As most of you know, Apple is in the midst of acquiring Beats.

    This means, of course, that some settlement is probably be in the works. Apple wouldn’t want to let this issue linger, unless they believe that Bose is wrong.

    Now with Samsung, we’re dealing with a company with a reputation, one that involves copying ideas from other companies and building similar products at a lower price. But till now, it appears that only Apple has been large enough to fund a sustained legal battle over the theft of intellectual property. But after several years of these back and forth skirmishes, you can still buy the very same Samsung gear, at the very same prices, as before.

    So far, efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement haven’t worked, even though Judge Koh requested them. A recent story from a publication in South Korea — Samsung’s home country — claimed such talks were again occurring, but that report was later denied.

    Still, there would seem to be a huge incentive for Samsung to get out of this mess. First, the company’s smartphone sales are declining. The successor to the popular Galaxy S4, the Galaxy S5, hasn’t quite done so well compared to its predecessor. A recent survey of smartphone market share showed Apple’s share shedding a little, and Samsung's share shedding a lot. Worse for Samsung, overall sales are flat and profits are declining. This isn’t quite a good time for them.

    At the same time, Apple pays Samsung billions of dollars every year for parts. The A7 processor, for example, is built by Samsung, and there’s a report that Apple is returning to Samsung for the A8, which is expected to be installed on the forthcoming iPhone 6.

    Indeed, you have to wonder what the executives of Samsung’s mobile and PC division were thinking to fight Apple in the courts while the company is, overall, earning huge revenues from the same company. Sure, it’s one thing for two companies to compete in some areas and cooperate in others. Microsoft comes to mind as a prime example of the frenemy concept. But Apple and Microsoft settled their legal disputes years ago.

    In light of the current situation, it would seem an ideal time for Samsung to just make a deal and move on. Maybe Apple’s decision to drop an appeal is a step in that direction, though it remains to be seen how this will all end up.

    At the very least, when Steve Jobs said Apple would go “nuclear” over the alleged theft of property when Android first arrived, that may have been more than just a little bit of bluster, though Tim Cook has continued to pursue legal actions.

    Still, there has to be an end to these lawsuits, and maybe we’re getting closer to a final resolution. It won’t stop Apple from suing and being sued. That will never change, but these high-profile legal battles have wasted everyone’s time, even when you subtract the legal bills, not to mention boring people to death. It’s time to move on and allow the overworked courts to handle far more important cases.



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