Technophobe: Apple v. Samsung lawsuit concludes

Megan Youngreen/Sun Star Columnist
August 28, 2012

Samsung and Apple have been fighting a lawsuit over the usage of Apple patents. The lawsuit also deals with Samsung allegedly copying the iPhone’s icons and visual style when creating their Android smartphones. Android provides the base functionality of many phones, but Google does not produce hardware itself, just the software.  The case could affect Android users unless expensive licensing agreements are signed between Google and Apple or between Apple and individual manufacturers.

Apple brought consumer-friendly smart phones into reality with the iPhone in 2007. In response, Google began updating their Android prototype, what was then a Blackberry lookalike, to incorporate a touch screen. When the first Android phone went on sale in 2008, the Android software was not up to par with the iPhone’s.  Android was quickly adopted because Google allowed companies to use and modify the operating system for free. Apple wouldn’t let anyone else use their OS. The result: more new Androids are set up per day than iPhones.

Apple had initially been partners with Google, bundling Google Maps and YouTube with their first iPhone. Apple felt they could be the delivery method for Google services. Eric Schmidt, then-CEO of Google, was on Apple’s board of directors. That relationship ended quickly. The late Steve Jobs said he wanted an “all out thermonuclear war on Android.” Without directly attacking Google, Apple charged a legal crusade against any company producing phones using Android, which includes Motorola, HTC, and Samsung.

In 2010 Samsung launched a series of Android devices, known as “Galaxy S” phones. Lightweight, with beautiful screens, and adequate battery life, these phones could’ve been competitive by just running plain Android. However, Samsung made two significant design changes: they modified Android to make it look like the iPhone and the phone hardware looked similar to the iPhone 3GS. Samsung had led Google into a bad situation.

Samsung stood as Apple’s shining example of wrongdoing. Their lawsuit took two paths: asking for damages for copying their style and asking for damages for using techniques they had patented. Android’s interface, ‘home’ and ‘unlock’ screens, menus and such, don’t look much like the iPhone’s, but Samsung’s phones did. Many of the patents brought up were general to all of Android.

With this lawsuit, Apple could force removal of major features from new and existing Androids. Apple has a patent on ‘multitouch’ which includes pinch-to-zoom, and having a keyboard able to sense when two keys are pressed simultaneously. They also have a patent on manipulating lists as if spinning a physical wheel – known as kinetic scrolling. Other Apple patents cover in-device search, and slide to unlock.

One could argue that Apple is trying to kill off competition and that some of these features are generic. Regardless, certain Samsung phones were given trade injunctions this July, preventing import into the US until in-device search was removed from the code. The change was sent to existing phones via software update as well. While Android devices are often not updated, it is now possible for features to be ‘removed’ by the manufacturer post-sale. If Apple allows companies to settle and pay to license the features could stay. It is within Apple’s rights to not allow licensing at all.

On Aug. 24, the jury returned with a result of Apple winning over a billion dollars in damages. It gives legitimacy to their legal claims against other Android manufacturers, and against Google itself. How this outcome will affect users is yet to be seen.

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