Apple has won its patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung, and a hearing has been set for Dec. 6 for a permanent injunction against eight of Samsung's devices. In response, people have been dumping their Samsung devices onto the secondary market, according to MarketWatch's Quentin Fottrell. eBay-style electronics site Gazelle.com "reports a 50 percent increase in Samsung smartphones" and a corresponding 10 percent drop in their price, because people "seem to be jumping ship," according to Gazelle exec Anthony Scarsella.
While the Dec. 6 hearing may make it illegal to sell certain of Samsung's tablets and smartphones, though, existing devices will still continue to function. They won't suddenly be switched off, and it won't suddenly become illegal to own a Samsung smartphone or tablet that's been found to infringe on Apple's patents. Here's a look at the facts behind the lawsuit, and who and what it affects.
Why was there a lawsuit in the first place?
Much has been made of Steve Jobs' personal hatred of Google's Android operating system, the open-source software which powers most of Samsung's tablets and smartphones. Beyond that, though, Apple accused Samsung of slavishly copying its designs, a claim which Apple demonstrated in court (and which Reddit user MarsSpaceship lampooned with his sarcastic photo essay showing similarities between Samsung's and Apple's products).
You can be sued for making products that look like someone else's?
Part of Apple's lawsuit involved such matters of "trade dress," which basically claimed that certain of Samsung's products are knockoffs of Apple's. Others, however, involved patent law.
Right now, the United States' patent system allows features of programming code to be patented, unlike the features of other written works such as plot devices in novels. This is done using a loophole in which you describe it as a "system and method" for having a machine execute the programming code. Because of this, many obvious features of computer software are now patented, and many software companies expend a great deal of effort on patenting anything they write. There even exist "patent troll" companies which, unlike Apple, do not actually make any products, and whose business models consist solely of suing companies which do.
Which Samsung devices will be affected?
In South Korea, the courts banned several of both Apple and Samsung's products due to their patent lawsuit in that country. In the United States, Apple has requested permanent injunctions on basically the Galaxy S and S2 line, along with the Droid Charge and Galaxy Prevail. The Verge's Matt Macari has a list of which devices are affected, and which parts of the lawsuit they were caught under.
What does this mean for Samsung's smartphones and tablets, going forward?
Samsung has already come up with workarounds for many of its newer devices to escape Apple patents, even going so far as to create a new version of one of its Galaxy Tab tablets in order to get around one country's ban. The Galaxy S III is an example of a Samsung smartphone which significantly diverges from the iPhone's design, and is not included on the list of phones to permanently ban.
Beyond that, Samsung will have to pay Apple for its patents, and will have to modify its future products to keep from infinging on them.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics