Two decisions in two different countries about the same patent issue in a single day. How’s that for coincidence? An Apple vs. Samsung fight over a couple of user-interface patents has been decided independently in both South Korea and the US today.
The South Korean decision, which was issued first, was more balanced toward both sides: Samsung violated Apple’s patents on the “bounce-back” effect and slide-to-unlock, but didn’t copy Apple’s designs; Apple violated a couple of Samsung’s wireless patents. They each owe each other five-digit damage sums (Apple owes Samsung about 50% more than Samsung owes Apple), and sales of Apple iPhone and iPad and Samsung Galaxy products are temporarily banned in South Korea.
The US decision came out rather more in Apple’s favor, with the company awarded over one billion dollars in damages (out of the $2.525 billion it demanded) for “willfully” infringing Apple’s design patents on bounce-back scrolling. Though Samsung countersued Apple over the same patents as in the Korea case, the US jury wasn’t convinced and didn’t award damages to Samsung. Needless to say, there will be appeals. It’s weird to think that just a year and a half ago, Samsung and Apple were signing a $7.8 billion deal to make iPad and iPhone parts.
If this award stands, how is this going to affect the nascent tablet market? Will everyone but Apple get out of it lest they attract Apple’s unwanted attention if they do too well? With as many patents as there are in play, it ends up looking something like the Biblical concept of sin—no matter how well you try to behave, you’ve assuredly done something wrong just by existing. The “Mutually Assured Destruction” school of patent defense was supposed to safeguard against this, by giving companies ammunition to sue right back if another company sues them—but this doesn’t seem to be working out so well for Samsung right now, does it?