After weeks of arguments and years of build-up, jurors in a US court reached a verdict in the legal battle between Apple and Samsung over smartphone and tablet patents. Jurors found that Samsung infringed on a number of Apple’s patents for mobile device hardware and software and ordered the company to pay more than $1 billion in damages.
Samsung had also argued that Apple had infringed on some of Samsung’s patents, but jurors disagreed.
The good news for Samsung is that the Korean electronics giant has plenty of cash and can probably afford to pay the fine. The bad news is that today’s ruling could dramatically change the future of the smartphone and tablet space.
Jurors found that a number of Samsung’s smartphones infringed on design patents for Apple’s iPhone, although Samsung’s Galaxy Tab line of tablets were found not to copy the design of the iPad.
But jurors also sided with Apple in determining that Samsung had violated patents for smartphone gestures including
pinch-to-zoom, tap-to-zoom, and 1 finger scrolling.
Update: This doesn’t necessarily cover pinch-to-zoom, but it does include certain touch-based gestures.
In other words, Apple has patents on some of the features that are found in nearly every smartphone on the market today, including devices running Android, Windows Phone, and other mobile operating systems. Now those patents have now been held up in court. That could lead Apple to go after other mobile device makers.
Theoretically, Apple could also go after Google. That’s the company that actually makes much of the software that runs on Samsung’s phones and tablets. But Google gives away the Android operating system for free, and makes money when people use Google services such as Google Search on mobile devices. So it makes more sense at this point for Samsung to go after the companies that sell Android devices rather than the maker of the Android software.
Still, don’t be surprised if Google and other mobile software makers try to come up with some new “intuitive” gestures for zooming and scrolling in the future.
I would be surprised, however, if Samsung didn’t try to appeal today’s ruling.
The two companies have also been battling in courtrooms around the world, with mixed results in Germany, South Korea, Australia and other regions. Today’s $1 billion dollar verdict is probably the most significant development in the company’s feud so far.