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Apple sues Samsung – ITC staffer says Apple patents not infringed by HTC

Apple this week, deciding that if you are in for a penny, you are in for a pound, added Samsung to the list of handset vendors that it is suing


Published: 21 April, 2011


Apple this week, deciding that if you are in for a penny, you are in for a pound, added Samsung to the list of handset vendors that it is suing. Apple says that its Galaxy handsets and tablets infringe iPhone and iPad patents and their trademarked appearance. Why is Apple making a complaint against its biggest supplier, no less than the fabricator of it A4 chip? Perhaps it feels stung by the quaint idea that Samsung should remain loyal and not compete with its designs. But more likely it is completing a set – without suing Samsung it can’t make a strong legal point against Android in general. This has the flavor of the suit Apple brought against Windows all those years ago and lost. Windows was indeed an operating system that copied many of the core design features of Apple’s environment, but was not similar enough to be a patent infringement.

The appearance and trademark claim actually made us laugh. 2011- A space Odyssey must have laid claim to a “shiny Black Obelisk,” shape when it came out in 1968, which is the same as the iPad, and if you believe the Arthur C. Clarke story, that’s been around since before the dawn of man. Not to mention the look and feel of all the Tablet PCs that were launched 10 years ago.

As we have said a few times before, Multi-touch is a genuine innovation, but not all the other patents Apple lays claim to. And you can’t have a patent and refuse to let anyone use it so that you can dominate handsets forever, and you can’t do that while failing to pay a penny for the 175 or so patents you need to build a modern handset. In our view Apple’s position is doomed, but it shouldn’t affect it that much financially even if it caves in, it’s just that it cannot harm its rivals in the courts.

The US ITC staff also seem to agree with us because they have recommended that the ITC should find that Nokia and HTC do not infringe Apple patents. A lawyer at the ITC has made the recommendation, which is highly likely to be adopted by the full body when it reaches its final verdict in early August.

Apple has been seeking to block imports of both Nokia and HTC smartphones to the US, as part of broader legal battles with the Finnish giant, and a wider attack on the Android community - also involving Motorola and now Samsung. This case is only one of several versus Nokia. Adding Samsung to it at least makes the attack consistent, though not any more powerful.

The recommendation of staff lawyers are not binding, and the ITC could vote to ignore it, but it doesn’t happen for no reason and it would be extremely unusual for the final verdict to overturn it. Last month, the ITC ruled against Apple in a separate complaint against Nokia and in March an initial determination by the ITC says that Apple doesn’t owe Nokia any royalties either on 5 particular technologies.

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