Last week saw several interesting developments in the worldwide patent war being fought by technology giants Samsung and Apple. The two companies are doing battle on multiple fronts across the globe, each asserting patents against the other covering various aspects of their respective mobile devices. Events of this week show that although it’s still too early to gauge who will emerge victorious as momentum swings back and forth for each side, it may be that Apple is slowly gaining the upper hand.
The week began in Australia, with the Federal Court granting an injunction banning sales of certain Samsung tablets accused of infringing Apple’s Australian patents. Apple initiated the Australian suit against Samsung earlier this year, and the request for injunction followed with arguments completed in early October. The injunction means that Samsung’s devices won’t be available to Australian customers until it resolves its patent infringement claims with Apple, and will be a significant blow to Samsung’s attempt to establish a share of the Australian market. Samsung has fired back however, filing its own claims of patent infringement in September and asserting that Apple has violated Samsung’s intellectual property rights in seven Australian patents.
The middle of the week saw the United States courts taking center stage. A San Francisco federal district court heard arguments on Apple’s injunction request – and although no ruling has yet been issued, the court’s comments indicate that it may throw Samsung a lifeline. Samsung argued that to get the injunction, Apple must show that Samsung infringes the patents in question and that the patents are valid – and the court commented that although there was a likelihood of infringement, it thought that Apple would have difficult establishing the patents’ validity.
Finally, the two parties’ dispute in the Netherlands saw an important advantage going back to Apple. Apple had obtained an injunction against Samsung in August, and Samsung fired back with its own claims of infringement and request for an injunction. The Dutch court hearing the dispute turned down Samsung’s injunction request on certain Apple products, and rejected claims that they infringe on Samsung’s patents.
While developments intensify in these countries, other fronts have recently been opened as the global fight widens and as new products are brought to market. Samsung recently sued Apple in France and Italy, attempting to ban sales of Apple’s latest mobile device, the iPhone 4S, in those countries. Apple also filed a lawsuit against Samsung in Japan in September, and cases in the United Kingdom and other countries are still pending.
The growing volume of patent litigation therefore shows no signs of subsiding. As mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers proliferate, and the fight for market share for those products intensifies, so is the fight for control in the courts based on the parties’ intellectual property rights. The dispute between Samsung and Apple, and several others between various entities in the mobile device marketplace for both hardware and operating system technology, highlights the importance that investment in intellectual property rights can have as a tool to establish, defend, and improve a market position. And it also highlights what may be a bigger battle looming – between providers of operating systems running these mobile devices, instead of just the devices themselves.