The Legal Battle Between Apple and Samsung

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With patent litigation that is fast turning into the technology industry favorite pastime, the ongoing legal battle between mobile handset giants, Apple and Samsung, which began in April 2011, now extends to several countries around the world with several different lawsuits being filed between the two companies. According Kane and Sherr (2011), in an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled Apple: Samsung Copied Design “Apple filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of Northern California that alleged that Samsung copied the look, product design, packaging and user interface of its products, violating its patent and trademarks.” Apple in its 38 page law suit claimed that “Rather than innovate and develop its own technology and a unique Samsung style for its smart phone products and computer tablets, Samsung chose to copy Apple's technology, user interface and innovative style in these infringing products.” This case marked the beginning of a legal battle between the two that is currently on going. Samsung actively responded to the case and later filed a law suit against Apple. The two companies have filed several other lawsuits against each other which are resulting in a back and forth legal battle. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung are centered on the issue of patents. The legal battle began when Apple claimed Samsung had “violated their patents covering things like the “bounce back” effect when a user scrolls to the end of a list on the iPhone and iPad, and a way to distinguish between one-finger scrolling from two-finger gestures like the pinch-to-zoom that magnifies an image. Samsung was also found to have infringed Apple patents covering the physical design of the iPhone.” (Wingfield, 2012) In this specific case the jury, after deliberating for three days at a federal courthouse in San Jose, California returned a verdict stating that they found Samsung infringed on a series of Apple’s patents on mobile devices, awarding Apple over $1 billion in damages, which was one of the largest award ever in a patent case according to Wingfield. Apple and Samsung are at odds in an effort to protect their intellectual capital, which in this case are patents. One can’t help but wonder, with such high level of attention on patents and who infringed on another company’s patents, what are the international standards for protecting intellectual capital. The World Trade Organization website, under the section entitled Intellectual Property: Protection and Enforcement gives the rules regarding protecting patents. According to the World Trade Organization “If a patent is issued for a production process, then the rights must extend to the product directly obtained from the process. Under certain conditions alleged infringers may be ordered by a court to prove that they have not used the patented process.” This is exactly what happened in the lawsuit where Apple was awarded over $1 billion in damages. Samsung, who were the alleged infringers, could not prove that they did not use Apple’s patents. The legal battle between Apple and Samsung went beyond the American borders as there are either pending or concluded lawsuits in Japan, Germany, South Korea, France, Italy along with other countries. The United States Patent and Trademark Office on their website, under the section entitled Office of Policy and External Affairs - Protecting Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Overseas spoke about patents overseas. According to uspto.gov patents and trademarks are territorial and must be filed in each country where protection is sought. A United States of America patent or trademark does not afford protection in another country. This fact explains why both Samsung and Apple have so many other lawsuits in other countries. A market economy allows and encourages competition between industrial and commercial organizations. As competitors are out to win, they may sometimes be tempted to use malicious means to gain an unfair advantage such as...
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