Posted : 2011-12-05 18:12
Updated : 2011-12-05 18:12

Is Apple losing grip in patent war with Samsung?

Galaxy Tab 10.1

US judge denies iPhone maker’s request for sales ban; new ruling forthcoming

By Kim Yoo-chul

The ongoing patent war between Samsung and Apple has reached a turning point as the Korean technology heavyweight clinched two straight wins against the iPhone maker, including one in the United States.

Its legal team was upbeat after the recent victory in a California court, which the company says was “critical,” to possibly lead to another one in Paris, France, on Dec. 8.

The court there will rule on Samsung’s request for a complete sales ban on the Apple iPhone 4S there. “If we win in Paris as well, that’s truly a big blow to Apple,” said an unnamed Samsung executive by telephone, Monday.

Apple’s injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy-branded tablet and three Android smartphones was rejected on Apple’s home turf.

Lucy Koh, a U.S. District Judge in California, denied Apple’s request filed in April for a preliminary injunction to block the Samsung products, which it alleged infringed Apple’s design-related patent rights.

“It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung’s accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed,” the judge stressed.

Koh also wrote Apple would likely prove Samsung infringed one of its tablet patents, however, Apple hadn’t shown that it was likely to overcome Samsung’s challenges to the patents’ validity.

That means Samsung is now free to continue selling its tablets and smartphones in the United States during the crucially-important year-end shopping season.

“We are ready to aggressively sell the Tabs,” said the Samsung executive.

In an official statement, the company said it welcomes the ruling as it confirms its long-held view that Apple’s arguments lack merit. The firm also said the court has recognized substantial questions it raised about the validity of certain Apple designs.

“We are confident that we can demonstrate the distinctiveness of Samsung’s mobile devices when the case goes to trial next year,” according to the statement.

Samsung spokesman Kevin Jeong said the company’s legal team has begun analyzing the ruling and how it will impact future trials. “But basically, the U.S. ruling looks positive.”

The ruling comes days after the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney ruled against a request by Apple to ban the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Apple initially took Samsung to court in California in April insisting that the Galaxy product lineup “slavishly copied” the designs of its iPhone and iPads.

Now, the two companies have filed at least 30 lawsuits in nine different countries. Samsung has been spending hugely for the battle because the outcome is viewed as its “destiny” to become a truly global leader in the electronics industry.

Samsung CEO Choi Gee-sung said some $200 million has been set aside through next year to respond to the ongoing legal tussle with its corporate frenemy Apple.

Samsung lost to Apple in two similar cases in Germany and the Netherlands, previously.

Steve Park, Apple spokesman in Korea was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency that “It’s no coincidence that Samsung’s latest products look a lot like the iPhone and the iPad, from the shape of the hardware to the user interface, and even the packaging.”

'Design patents not answer'

Design is undoubtedly one of Apple’s key success factors and that’s why the decision by Koh is regarded as bad for Apple fans.

Florian Mueller, a German-based intellectual expert who runs a popular FossPatents blog, wrote it had become clear that design patents are not the answer to Apple’s issues with Samsung.

“If Apple wants to defend market share against Samsung (and other Android device makers), it really needs to focus on solid technical patents instead,” Mueller said in the blog.

But the expert insisted that the initial U.S. ruling was too skeptical to Apple’s claims and expects that a final decision could be more favorable.

“This preliminary finding indicates clearly that Samsung can easily modify the design of those phones in order to design around the scope of any future ruling,” Mueller said.

Samsung Electronics shares have hit a record high on Korea’s main bourse mostly helped by the brisk performance of Samsung’s smartphone sales.

The company became the world’s biggest smartphone maker in the third quarter of this year in terms of total shipments. Even the legal fight with Apple hasn’t dragged down its sales of mobile gadgets as Samsung is differentiating its hardware materials such as display technology.

“This is another factor why Samsung has been maintaining its hard-line stance against Apple. The U.S. ruling is expected to fuel more momentum for it to further strengthen the existing stance,” said another Samsung executive.

“I think that Apple’s and Samsung’s market shares are so high that Judge Koh shouldn’t have dismissed quite so easily Apple’s claim that Samsung’s sales bite into its market share. Right now the smartphone market is growing fast, so the simple kind of evidence that declining sales might constitute isn’t available,” Mueller said.

Apple licensed at least one of its iOS software patents related to scrolling functionality to Nokia and IBM of the United States and made the same offer to Samsung during failed settlement negotiations in November 2010, according to reports.
관련 한글 기사

`애플, 디자인 특허만으로 삼성 꺾기 힘들어’

-8일 프랑스 법원 판결 분수령 될 듯
-특허 전문가 `디자인 특허로는 삼성 이기기 역부족’

삼성전자가 애플에 `치욕’을 안겼다. 삼성전자와 `끝장 싸움’을 벌이고 있는 애플이 자신의 홈그라운드인 미국에서 삼성에 패했기 때문.

이제 관심은 프랑스로 옮겨졌다. 삼성전자가 제기한 아이폰 4S 판매금지 가처분 신청에 대한 8일 프랑스 법원의 판결이 삼성에 유리하게 나오게 되면 `크로스라이선싱 (cross-licensing)’가능성이 더 커질 것으로 예상된다.

`0대4’로 밀리던 삼성전자가 ‘2대4’까지 맹추격 중인 가운데, 이번주는 향후 삼성과 애플의 글로벌 소송전을 가늠할 분수령이 될 전망이다.

프랑스 법원의 판결은 유럽에서 처음으로 삼성의 주무기인 통신 특허를 인정해 애플의 주력제품인 아이폰4S의 판매를 금지시킬지 여부가 관심사다.

앞서 네덜란드 헤이그 법원은 삼성이 제기한 애플 제품 판매금지 가처분 금지신청을 기각한 바 있다.

또 호주의 경우 최초로 대법원까지 올라온 소송전인데다, 지금까지 금지된 `갤럭시탭 10.1’의 호주내 판매 재개 여부가 결정된다는 점에서 주목된다.

호주 연방대법원은 9일, `갤럭시탭 10.1’의 호주 판매를 허용키로 한 항소심 판결에 불복한 애플의 상고에 대해 판결을 내릴 예정이다.

독일의 특허전문가인 플로리안 뮬러 (Florian Mueller)는 ``애플이 디자인 특허만 가지고 삼성을 꺾기에는 역부족으로 보인다’’면서 ``애플이 스마트폰 시장에서 자신의 입지를 이어가기 위해서는 기술 특허가 필요하다’’고 꼬집었다.

한편 미국 캘리포니아주 북부지방법원의 한국계 루시 고(한국명 고혜란) 판사는 ``애플이 자사 제품에 결정적인 피해를 줄 수 있다는 주장을 입증하지 못했다’’고 밝혔다.

애플이 주장해온 디자인의 독창성 역시 17년전 나온 태블릿PC의 원조격인 나이트리더(미국 미디어 그룹)의 홍보영상 속 `더 태블릿(The Tablet)’과 근본적으로 모습이 비슷하다고 판단했다.

뮬러는 ``이번 캘리포니아주 북부지방법원의 판결로 삼성전자가 향후 애플이 디자인 특허로 압박할 경우 변형된 디자인을 갤럭시탭이나 갤럭시 스마트폰에 쉽게 적용할 수 있게 될 것’’이라며 ``이번 판결은 애플에게는 부정적’’이라고 말했다.

전문가들은 애플이 삼성과 상호간의 특허를 인정하는 크로스라이선싱에 보다 적극적으로 나설 것으로 예상하고 있다. 업계 관계자들은 실지로 삼성전자 특허팀과 애플 사이에 크로스라이선싱과 관련된 논의가 물밑에서 활발하게 이뤄지고 있는 것으로 보고 있다.

정재웅 삼성전자 커뮤니케이션팀 부장은 ``확인해 줄 수 없는 사안’’이라고 선을 그었다.

그러나 삼성이 내년 여름으로 예정된 본안 소송에서 승소할지는 여전히 미지수로 남아 있다.

특허 전문가인 정우성 변리사는 ``가처분 사건의 판결은 본안에서 다루는 내용뿐만 아니라 당사자 간의 형평성, 애플이 입은 피해 등을 종합적으로 감안해 내려지기 때문에 이번에 이겼다고 본안 소송에서 반드시 승소한다고 보기는 어렵다’’고 말했다.

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