No, I’m not implying it’s a high-tech paternity spat. But as things kicked off last week in Santa Clara, California under the watchful and somewhat acerbic eye of the Honorable Judge Lucy H. Koh, the world’s leading and most innovative hardware makers have come face to face to argue patent law bang in the middle of Silicon Valley. You’d think there isn’t a better arena for this argument, however finding a jury member who doesn’t own an Apple or Samsung device,work for one the tech companies with an interest in teh case or wven own Apple or Samsung shares was always going to be tricky – indeed at one point a potential juror and Google employee, quizzed by Judge Koh said he owned a number of devices including;
two Samsung smartphones, two iPads, a Samsung Galaxy tablet, and a Nook Color., Judge Koh, to the amusement of the packed courthouse remarked, ‘You’re good for the economy’.
So what’s at the heart of this case? Well, on the surface – it’s a simple case of ‘you copied us’. Apple maintain that Samsung infringed its patent rights by copying elements of the iPhone and iPad design; Apple have sought 2.5 billion dollars in damages and are seeking a ban on the offending Samsung devices from US stores. Samsung responded by saying that Apple were using commonly avalaible technologies and indeed, used elements of other companies technology in their designs – for example, Sony and LG. Furthermore, Samsung wants Apple’s use of the Samsung 3G patents addressed as part of the case.
So that’s the top-level view and here’s how this may pan-out: Apple and Samsung will agree to a side-agreement (which Judge Koh encouraged them to reach before the trial began). The gist of this side-deal will be that Apple will pay an amount per device for. I imagine, the 3G Data patent – and Samsung will pay Apple an amount of money per Samsung device sold to use the most obvious ‘iOS’ style features. Samsung devices will remain on sales, but tthey’ll have to revise some design elements and graphics. Apple also claim apart from the product design itself, that Samsung even copied its intellectual property in the form of iOS graphics – see this fascinating comparison at CNET – Samsung copied the iPhone interface, but badly.
I believe this battle is is about so much more though; Apple and Samsung have emerged as the leaders set to be at loggerheads for at least the next 3 years as teh Smartphone and Tablet markets mature. Part of that maturing prcess is the evolution of the Smartphone into an even more smart device – smart and location aware. We are are likely to see Apple, Samsung and other companies devices fitted with NFC – Near Field Communications chips over the next 12 months. And it’s this development that in a very short time will transform how we travel and shop everyday. In a radio interview, I spoke about the Apple World-Wide Developer Conference announcements and one apparently small element of those announcements with monumental potential: PassBook. Concept: you have an app on your iPhone that ‘collects’ up all the QR codes you get when you buy cinema tickets and train fares for instance. You walk in the door of the cinema, and your QR code for that movie appears on your lock-screen, and you scan yourself in. Brilliant. WIthout a doubt, I expect to see an ‘iTunes Mall’ selling everything from train fares to cinema tickets – maybe even concert tickets for every global gig – before next Summer. If you have an event / fare / ticket you want to get on to users iPhones – you’ll want Apple to sell it – 3% for them and you’re happy. And you have happy customers.