Monday, October 15, 2012
Apple v. Samsung: The Smartphone’s Role in Shaping U.S. Patent Law
In early October, South Korean company Samsung filed a motion in a California court claiming that Apple’s iPhone 5 infringed on eight of its patents. Some of the disputed patents include synchronizing photos, music, and videos and sharing them between multiple devices. Many in the patent community have faulted Samsung for choosing the courtroom as the forum for this dispute resolution. There is concern that large software companies are improperly using litigation as a means for negotiation.
However, Samsung was not the first to make a move in this mudslinging battle. Prior to this claim, Apple sued Samsung for patent infringement. Six of the seven disputed patents were found to be infringing. Most of the patents were design patents, which raise the question of whether design is actually invention that can be patent protected and whether it should be protected. Patent experts claim that this sort of patenting could quell innovation because Apple now controls a majority of the smart phone patent market and now has the possibility of controlling rights to more aspects of product.
The cases have attracted international attention and much international criticism. A Netherlands newspaper published an article entitled, “Apple vs. Samsung: In America, Even a 'Fart' can be Patented,” arguing that the U.S. patent system has reached the point of absurdity and allows far too much to be patented. In a South Korean editorial, “Apple vs. Samsung: More Proof that American Industry has Lost its Edge,” the U.S. is criticized for discouraging innovation through its patent court decisions and generally exhibiting sore loser tendencies.
It is possible that innovation will still occur in the smart phone industry, but around the Apple patents. Some predict that Samsung will now focus on windows-based products in an effort to steer away from possible infringement claims. The company remains the largest supplier of parts used in Apple products, ultimately providing 26% of Apple product components.
The recent wave of smart phone patent litigation seems to be an abuse of the U.S. court system and patent law in general. Apple’s recent victory over Samsung raises questions as to the appropriate reach of patent protection and its effects on innovation. Patent law was designed to encourage and facilitate innovation; however, these cases might result in the opposite.
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