After a rough start this week on the patent wars’ front lines, Apple has finally scored a serious blow against its most publicized rival in the tablet space. Earlier Tuesday, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose), granted Apple’s long-standing request for a preliminary injunction against domestic sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1. Having initially denied Apple’s position, Koh was compelled to reconsider her ruling after the case was successfully appealed.
Koh’s statement sums up what Apple’s been saying since the Galaxy Tab 10.1 launched last year:
Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products.
For the injunction to take effect, Apple must first post a $2.6 million bond to cover potential lost Galaxy Tab sales should the case be appealed and the verdict overturned.
For its part, Samsung maintains its innocence in the matter, saying that
Apple sought a preliminary injunction of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, based on a single design patent that addressed just one aspect of the product’s overall design. Should Apple continue to make legal claims based on such a generic design patent, design innovation and progress in the industry could be restricted.”
Unfortunately, that “one aspect” was big enough to warrant blocking sales of Samsung’s now-obsolete 10-inch tablet. Further, Samsung’s seemingly pro-consumer, fear-for-the-future stance is legally and practically disingenuous. Says professor Colleen Chien of Silicon Valley-based Santa Clara Law:
That this was a design patent and copying was alleged distinguish this case from plain vanilla utility patent cases. Cases involving these kinds of patents are based more on a counterfeiting theory than a competition theory, so I don’t expect this case to have ramifications for all smartphone disputes, but rather those involving design patents and the kind of product resemblance we had here.
Samsung has proved that it doesn’t need to blatantly copy the looks of Apple’s protected hardware to make an impact in the mobile market. Indeed, most recent products from the Korean electronics giant have done away with aping Apple, and Samsung has suffered no negative impact on product sales or user adoption for doing so.
There can never be innovation in needlessly emulating another company’s physical product designs. Nor is it a hindrance to the industry when a brand’s been caught and punished for doing so. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. After all, our differences make us who we are.
That’s true for me and you, and it’s true for Apple and Samsung, too.