A jury ruling in Apple's favour over Samsung in the United
States District Court1 could have a chilling effect on
rivals, and leave them scrambling for alternatives to common
touch-screen gestures used in consumer electronic devices. The jury
found Samsung violated six Apple patents. In particular, three of
these patents cover common touch-screen effects:
US Patent 7,469,381 covers the bounce-back effect
when a user tries to scroll beyond the end of a list or image.
US Patent 7,844,915 covers the pinch-to-zoom and one-fingered
scrolling gesture effects.
US Patent 7,864,163 covers the tap-to-zoom and centre gesture
The awarded $1.05 billion has had a chilling effect on
Samsung's stock price, and may significantly limit its access
to the US marketplace. While Samsung will appeal, Apple has
indicated that it will seek an injunction against Samsung to
further limit Samsung's ability to maintain its market
Interestingly, the corresponding Canadian patent to Patent
7,469,381 issued just a few weeks ago and the corresponding
Canadian patent to US Patent 7,864,163 is still pending. However
there is no corresponding application in Canada for US Patent
7,844,915. It is possible that Apple will try to leverage the US
decision to enforce its patents in Canada and elsewhere. While
Apple does not have patent coverage in Canada for some inventions
protected in the US, the nature of the global consumer electronics
market will make it difficult for competitors to take advantage of
this without access to the potential revenue provided by the US
Samsung will not suffer alone. All software designers are now
faced with the challenge of developing alternatives to these common
touch-screen gestures. However it is reported that Samsung has
already created design-arounds for some of the patented features.
However delays and awkward fixes may be expected in the near future
from competitors, as they scramble to create software workarounds.
This ruling could hamper smartphone innovation because it is
difficult to envision how a non-Apple smartphone can be competitive
without using these now-common and intuitive touch-screen effects.
Some in the media have argued that the decision will actually
accelerate innovation as designers are forced to explore new
solutions. Time will tell.
1 Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. et al., No.
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A recent Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench decision allowed a court-appointed receiver to sell and transfer intellectual property rights free and clear of encumbrances, finding that a license to use improvements of an invention was a contractual interest and not a property interest.
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