US commission sides with Apple over patents
Models pose with Samsung Electronics?Galaxy Note II devices in a photo session before its official launch in the United States, Thursday. The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Wednesday that Samsung infringed on four Apple patents. / Courtesy of Samsung Electronics
By Kim Yoo-chul
Samsung Electronics said Thursday that it will appeal against a preliminary ruling by the U.S. trade commission in favor of Apple’s patent infringement claims.
The move came after the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled Wednesday that some Samsung mobile devices infringed upon four Apple patents.
In the preliminary ruling, the ITC Judge Thomas Pender found Samsung Electronics in violation of four Apple patents, including intellectual property for touch-screen technology.
“Samsung plans to ask the trade commission in the United States to review the initial determination, immediately. We believe that a review will overturn the decision,” spokesman Park Han-yong told The Korea Times, Thursday.
He said the initial determination will have no substantial impact on its electronics business in the world’s top consumer electronics market. Under U.S. regulations, a firm is allowed to seek a review of a preliminary ruling if the decision is considered to be significant even before a final ruling is made.
The final determination is scheduled for February, next year. The ITC is a government agency with quasi-judicial authority that can impose import bans on patent-infringing products.
In July, Apple filed a complaint to the commission seeking a complete sales ban on Samsung’s Galaxy line of devices, claiming the smartphones and tablet PCs infringed on six of its patents.
Samsung filed a counterclaim two months later. The ITC didn’t make any official comments on Apple’s requests to block Samsung devices in the United States. The preliminary finding also did not influence investors too much.
“The impact of the preliminary decision by the ITC on Samsung stocks will be very limited. The issue will have some marginal impact in terms of investor sentiment. But you don’t need to worry about that, too much,” said a fund manager from a Europe-based investment bank in Seoul, who manages billions of dollars worth Samsung stocks.
If the preliminary decision is accepted by the commission’s six-member meeting early next year, then Samsung won’t be able to sell its Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Samsung is being aggressive in selling Galaxy S2 smartphones in the United States via major U.S. carriers such as T-Mobile.
The preliminary ruling comes just a day after the United States Patent and Trademark Office nullified certain Apple design patents including “bounce-back,” which makes a digital page bounce when a user pulls a finger from the top of the touch-screen to the bottom.
In a recent interview with The Korea Times, Florian Mueller of FossPatents and patent scholar Brian Love from the Santa Clara University School of Law said that the Samsung-Apple dispute presided over by Judge Lucy Koh is likely end with Samsung paying less than the $1.05 billion in damages awarded by a jury.
Concerns over protectionism growing
Meanwhile, the ITC preliminary ruling raises controversies that Apple is getting “invisible support” from Washington. “It’s understandable that the initial ruling is raising heated debate over the U.S. government’s one-sided love for Apple,” said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst at IBK Securities.
In related news, the U.S. Department of Justice — in collaboration with anti-trust authorities in Europe, South Korea and other nations — is investigating whether Samsung abused FRAND-pledged standard-essential patents, said Florian Muller of FossPatents.
“Apple’s attack was so far very effective on its home-ground with the preliminary decision and California verdict. The ITC said Samsung infringed Apple’s heuristics patent; but a court in Australia previously said the same patent was invalid,” said a source requesting anonymity.
Unlike rulings in the United States, Samsung won a victory in the Netherlands where a court said the Korean company didn’t infringe on Apple’s multi-touch patent. Also, a court in Japan rejected Apple’s claim that Samsung copied its patents, while an appeals court in the United Kingdom ruled the Samsung Galaxy Tab wasn’t a copy of an Apple product.
“Samsung filed a document in a court in the United States that it had developed modified technologies that differed from Apple’s patents. For me, Apple is losing more than Samsung in this global patent war, in general,” said the source.
The modified technologies are for bounce-back, tap-to-zoom and finger-to-zoom. The California jury decided Samsung had infringed on the original patents for these owned by Apple. The source said Samsung has already applied the modified technologies to its Galaxy devices that it sells in the U.S.