What do you think of the US Apple vs Samsung court result?
What does Apple's victory in an epic patent dispute over its fiercest rival Samsung Electronics mean for the smartphone industry?
This was the US$1billion question analysts were debating after a US jury decided Samsung Electronics ripped off Apple technology. Would it help Apple corner the smartphone market over its Android rivals, or would it amount to one more step in a protracted legal battle over smartphone technology.
Many analysts said the decision could spell danger for competitors who, like Samsung, use Google's Android operating system to power their mobile phones.
"I am sure this is going to put a damper on Android's growth," New York-based ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall said. "It hurts the franchise."
The San Francisco jury found that some of Samsung's products illegally copied features and designs exclusive to Apple's iPhone and iPad. The verdict was narrowly tailored to only Samsung, which has sold more than 22 million smartphones and tablets that Apple claimed used its technology, including the "bounce-back" feature when a user scrolls to an end image, and the ability to zoom text with a tap of a finger.
But most other Apple competitors have used the Android system to produce similar technology, which could limit the features offered on all non-Apple phones, analysts said.
The other makers are now scrambling to find alternatives, said Rob Enderle, a leading US technology analyst.
Seo Won-seok, a Seoul-based analyst at Korea Investment, said that the popular zooming and bounce-back functions the jury said Samsung stole from Apple will be hard to replicate.
The companies could opt to pay Apple licensing fees for access to the technology or develop smarter technology to create similar features that don't violate the patent - at a cost likely to be passed onto consumers.
Apple lawyers are planning to ask that the two dozen Samsung devices found to have infringed its patents be barred from the US market. Most of those devices are "legacy" products with almost nonexistent new sales in the United States. Apple lawyers will also ask that the judge triple the damage awarded to $US3 billion since the jury found Samsung "willfully" copied Apple's patents.
A loss to the Android-based market would represent a big hit for Google as well. Google relies on Android devices to drive mobile traffic to its search engine, which in turn generates increased advertising revenue. Android is becoming increasingly more important to Google's bottom line because Apple is phasing out reliance on Google services such as YouTube and mapping as built-in features on the iPhone and iPad.
Some experts cautioned that the decision might not be final, noting the California lawsuit is one of nine similar legal actions across the globe between the two leading smartphone makers.
Samsung has vowed to appeal the verdict all the way to the US Supreme Court and a September 20 hearing is scheduled.
The $1 billion represents about 1.5 per cent of Samsung's annual revenue. Jerome Schaufeld, a technology professor at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US, said the verdict would not upend a multibillion-dollar global industry.
"Samsung is powerful," Professor Schaufeld said. "The company will regroup and go on."
Samsung engineers have already been designing around the disputed patent since last year.
"We should never count out Samsung's flexibility and nimbleness," said Mark Newman, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein. "This is merely an embarrassment and annoyance to the company that they will have to find ways around."
The dispute centres on Apple's dissatisfaction with Google's entry into the phone market when the search company released its Android operating system and announced any company could use it free of cost.
Google entered the market while its then-CEO Eric Schmidt was on Apple's board, infuriating Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who considered Android to be a blatant rip-off of the iPhone's innovations. Apple filed its patent infringement lawsuit in April 2011, engaging the country's highest-paid patent lawyers to demand $US2.5 billion.
The verdict did not faze some iPhone users, who said that they already know Apple phones are superior.
The rivals are "modelling phones based on what they see with the iPhone," said Apple user David Green, finishing a call on his iPhone while waiting to catch a train.
He said he switched to Apple from a BlackBerry about a year ago, after becoming disenchanted with the reliability and technological features of non-Apple smartphones.
"When I got the iPhone, it worked so well that I told my friends; 'Now I have a REAL smartphone'," Mr Green said.
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