Jurors in California have begun hearing evidence in an intellectual property lawsuit filed over cell phones manufactured by Apple and Samsung Electronics. The lawsuit alleges that Samsung violated Apple’s patents by utilizing technology in Samsung smartphones that had been developed by Apple. The trial is part of an ongoing two-year legal battle between Apple and several companies that it claims violated its patent rights, including Google, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung.
According to the lawsuit, Apple alleges that Samsung deliberately violated its designs for the iPhone and iPad, two of Apple’s best-selling products, both in terms of how they were designed and how users would interact with the devices. Samsung has countered that Apple is using its patents to “stifle legitimate competition and limit consumer choice to maintain its historically exorbitant profits.”
So far, judicial rulings in the lawsuits involving Apple’s patent rights have been mixed. In June 2012, Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Samsung had infringed on an Apple patent and placed a preliminary injunction on Samsung to prevent the company from selling its Galaxy Nexus smartphone. However, it a separate ruling, Judge Richard Posner threw out a lawsuit involving Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility phone, rejecting both Apple’s broad patent claims and Motorola’s requests to receive large payments from Apple based on the use of its own patents.
Technology experts say that the outcome of the ongoing legal battle between Apple and its competitors could shape the face of the smartphone industry for years to come. Although patents can be easily obtained, their real-life value is largely determined by how they are judged in court. A few rulings that favor one side of the other in the smartphone intellectual property litigation could provide one company with a strong competitive advantage in the future. This could provide the basis for settlements that would allow one company to license another’s technology—or give a company the opportunity to keep its patented technologies exclusive from its competitors.
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