In what has been dubbed the patent trial of the century, Apple has emerged victorious beyond measure. On Friday a Silicon Valley jury ruled that a series of ubiquitous smartphone and tablet featuressuch as the rounded rectangular form and how screens slide and bounce when touchedare proprietary Apple innovations.
The nine-person jury, which deliberated for less than three days, found the South Korean company had copied iPhone and iPad features and awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages. The verdict could lead to a ban on sales of popular Samsung products and further cements Apple's dominance in the mobile device market.
For Apple fans, its great news. But for the millions of people walking around with Android devices in hand, we have some questions.
To answer them, I checked in with Van Lindberg, an IP and open-source attorney with the international corporate law firm Haynes and Boone.
Q: What is still to be determined in this case?
A: The big unknowns are whether Apple will get an injunction [stopping sale of infringing Samsung devices], and how big Apple's damages will be.
Apple will likely ask for an injunction preventing Samsung from selling its infringing devices in the United States. That would immediately remove a large number of Samsung devices from the market. Given that Samsung is the largest Android vendor, an injunction might move the market share numbers back in Apple's favor, at least temporarily.
Apple also was granted a large amount of damages. The bigger news, though, was that the jury also found that Samsung's infringement was "willful." Patent law has a special provision that penalizes knowing copying of a patented feature by making the damages up to three times bigger.
Q: Will the ruling affect features and functions in current Samsung devices?
A: Yes. Even though most of the devices found infringing in today's verdict are older-generation phones, some of them are still being sold. Depending on whether Apple is granted an injunction, those devices may need to be removed from the market. Samsung will also need to modify some aspects of its "Touchwiz" user interface to make them less like Apple's iPhone user interface.
This win may also affect Apple's other lawsuit against Samsung, alleging that some of Samsung's newer models (such as the Galaxy II and the Galaxy Nexus) also infringe Apple's patentsbut Samsung will have a chance to fight that battle in 2014.
Q: What about software updates to phones people already own? Could Samsung disable some features because of the ruling?
A: It will depend on the specific ruling from the Judge. The judge may require software updates to remove infringing functionality. It has happened before. The global search functionality was removed in some phones due to a patent threat.
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