Smartphone Verdict Suggests Changes Ahead

Discussion
Aug 27, 2012

If mobile shopping is the wave of the future for retailing, a landmark verdict last week could reshape how mobile tools — smartphones and tablets — look, work and are priced down the road.

A federal jury in San Jose, CA, awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages from Samsung for infringing on just six patents. According to reports, Samsung infringed on Apple’s so-called "pinch and zoom" patent, or the ability to make text on a touchscreen bigger by moving one’s fingers outward; as well as its ‘bounce’ patent, or the way the image onscreen bounces back when it is dragged with a finger to the edge of the device. The bigger surprise was the finding that Samsung infringed on three of the four design patents, including the icon setup and the shape of a tablet computer: a rectangle with rounded corners.

Samsung promised to appeal and continue similar actions in courts around the world.

"Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer," Samsung wrote in a statement. "It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices."

Various analysis of the outcome predicted ongoing litigation that could still take years to resolve. But many patent experts and technology followers also stated that competitors will likely be more apprehensive over copying Apple’s "look and feel" to avoid getting sued.

"This ruling sends a message to all the handset makers that you have to make truly differentiated products that look different," Colleen Chien, an assistant professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, told the New York Times.

Apple is expected to now go after other companies for similar software infringements, particularly Android maker Google and its hardware partners. In the second quarter, Android phones — made by many phone makers — represented 68 percent of smartphone shipments, while Apple’s represented 17 percent, according to market research firm IDC.

For consumers, no recalls of Samsung smartphones are expected but an upgrade may remove some Apple-like features. Costs may likely rise due to the mounting legal expenses and possibly subsequent licensing deals. Reuters speculated that, based on the damages in the case, Samsung may eventually agree to pay Apple $10 per device in a cross-licensing deal to borrow some key features.

On the brighter side, some believe the verdict may spur a round of innovation as many seek fresh ways to avoid copycatting and perhaps one-up Apple’s designs and features.

How may the Apple/Samsung patent verdict affect the development of mobile shopping from a positive or negative standpoint? What would be the ideal outcome?

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Smartphone Verdict Suggests Changes Ahead"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
4 years 10 months ago

With Apple’s interpretation of patents, there is only so much wiggle room to build a truly differentiated product *if* you stick with the icon paradigm. What you can do is completely rethink the interface as Microsoft has done with the “Modern” (formerly “Metro”) interface and live tiles. I think, in the long run, this will be good for the consumer as device makers will have to do more innovation and less copying. This is also excellent news for Microsoft as Android is increasingly looking both risky (litigation wise) and expensive (licensing wise).

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

There will be no real affect. When you get past the Apple fanboy’s twist on reality and get involved in the developer scene in Silicon Valley or where I am in Silicon Alley, you find that there’s so much innovation going on outside of the big name players, that these cases have no real impact.

Apple does not have a corner on UI design and gestures — there’s plenty of space to do new/different things and anyway, Apple is not going to go after apps that “infringe” on their patents, because there’s nothing for them to gain. If indeed Samsung raises the price of their phones, price sensitive buyers will simply buy something else. Retailers have nothing to think about unless they sell Samsung phones.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

“Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung wrote in a statement. “It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices.”

That is kind of an ironic statement. Since when is copying innovation?

With regard to mobile shopping, there will be no difference. Electronic shopping alternatives will continue to grow and the faster the innovation the faster they will grow. Shoppers want this alternative now and will simply gravitate to the tools that make it easier for them.

David Dorf
BrainTrust

Bad news for Google, but good news for Microsoft.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Slippery slope here. I do understand the importance of patents and a competitive advantage being protected, however, some of the aspects in question are form factor, rather than proprietary design. Every Ford car has four wheels and a specialized steering device called a “steering wheel.” Why is Chevrolet allowed to have the same configuration?

Dan Frechtling
BrainTrust

From the beginning, Android mimicked the iPhone closely enough to serve as a low-priced alternative. The goal was to build an ecosystem to battle Apple just like PCs did. By duplicating the user experience (or the appearance of similarity in wireless stores), Android made price the distinguishing factor.

Android gained immediate credibility because of the Open Handset alliance (Google + 83 other companies) and because it “looked” like it was credible. A revolutionary UI would have slowed adoption. Instead, cheap prices accelerated it.

Now the low-cost knockoff model is history, like the steroid era in baseball. But the game will remain just as popular. Mobile shopping already has enough momentum so this won’t slow commerce.

However, certain vendors will feel a pinch as they delay releases of products that too closely resemble Apple products. Samsung will bear the most pain, but other handset makers like HTC will increase their hedge and more quickly accept the inevitable by adding more Windows Phone models.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

I can’t help but wonder what would automobiles, TVs and many household appliances look and operate like today if the same rules applied?

Mark Burr
Guest
4 years 10 months ago

There is no impact to mobile shopping whatsoever. It is a spitting match between two manufacturers that consumers really couldn’t care less about. It will be litigated for years by appeal before any real outcome is achieved. When there is an outcome, consumers will have moved on to the next thing.

In the years while this is being settled, an electronic device that is completely new will be in consumers’ hands and this will be a forgotten matter.

Whether or not that is the ideal outcome, it is the reality of technological innovation. Would it have really been the vision of many that iPads and tablets would be in the hands of millions five to seven years ago? Now, imagine what will change in the next five to seven while this creeps through the courts at a snail’s pace.

In the meantime, the consumer will have a completely different set of expectations that haven’t even been thought of yet.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
4 years 10 months ago

I don’t see this having a big impact on mobile shopping in the near term. There’s still a long way for this to run, but if it does lead to clearer differentiation, this could drive new innovation and platforms that make mobile shopping easier and better.

Joe Nassour
Guest
Joe Nassour
4 years 10 months ago

I believe this will be a temporary setback for Samsung. One thing for sure is that Apple does not have a corner on innovation. Samsung will replace the offending code with something even better.

This could sow the seeds for solutions leading to Apple’s ultimate loss of market share.

Larry Negrich
BrainTrust

Not sure this will have any effect on mobile shopping. What the ruling may do (if upheld) is to get electronic manufacturers to innovate more and not just all follow the same path set by Apple. Let’s see if the manufacturers can bring some new ideas, innovation to the table with the next big thing instead of following with the same old “similar” thing strategy.

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust
I will reiterate earlier comments to the effect that who owns the mobile wallet will absolutely dominate retail at some point in the not distant future. If you replace every plastic credit card in your wallet with a shiny new smart phone credit card that works anywhere, just like cash – but securely linked to only you – you have where we are going. This is what the real battle between Apple and Google is about. Samsung is just a surrogate for Google here. This mobile device will ultimately sense what products you are removing from the store, and will charge accordingly, eliminating the frustrating interruption of checkout. Even more, the device will digitally mediate sales as the old time (100+ years ago) proprietor/agent did, only with modern personal knowledge of you. How long will it take people trying to develop digital mediation of sales to learn that the device must be the servant of the shopper, not the servant of the retailer or the retailer’s suppliers? That insight is more likely to come from an Apple than anyone polluted with current and historical retailer thinking. I’m impressed with PayPal’s initiative in mobile payment, but still think this is a… Read more »
Christopher Krywulak
Guest
Christopher Krywulak
4 years 9 months ago

I would agree with Ralph from IBM here. There’s a place for patenting original innovation and design, but there’s also a place for sharing universally-accepted interface elements. It’s indeed a slippery slope. The verdict may not directly harm mobile shopping per se, but hopefully it will help reform patent law to become less hostile and more about protecting what’s worth protecting.

A member of my staff wrote on our company blog yesterday: “If every computer manufacturer who used a mouse had been sued, we wouldn’t have a very healthy technology industry today.”

There’s a lot of truth to that.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you see the Apple/Samsung patent verdict as likely having a positive or negative impact on the development of mobile shopping?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...