Pinch and Zoom: Apple vs. Samsung

Last week, the ruling in Apple’s patent infringement lawsuit was released. Once upon a time the public was captivated by things like sensational celebrity trials. Now we have live-blogging of patent infringement verdicts. Oh, for simpler times!

In case you missed it, in a landmark decision that is certain to be appealed, Samsung was ordered to pay damages of over $1 billion for multiple infringements of Apple’s design and utility patents for smartphones and tablets. The infringement ruling covers trade-dress, design patents and utility patents including user-interface functions such as the now familiar pinch-and-zoom gesture, and the “rubberbanding” effect at screen margins.

What does this ruling mean? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Experts have estimated that the average smartphone relies on 250,000 patented technologies that are in-licensed from various device and technology manufacturers around the world. While many patents are at issue in this lawsuit, Apple’s ‘915 patent (Patent No. US 7,844,915, Filing date: 7 Jan 2007)  for pinch-and-zoom and related scrolling gestures was central to Apple’s infringement claims. Pinch-and-zoom has become such an intuitive gesture that I’ve seen kids try and perform it on the screens of portable DVD players and seat-back TVs. This particular ruling will impact smartphone and tablet makers who rely on Android. But it’s important to remember that this is not an appeal-level decision, nor does it extend beyond the US, so time will tell how other smartphone makers respond in Canada or globally.
  • The Android operating system would not offend Apple’s design and trade-dress rights (which cover the shape or appearance of the hardware), and Android has designed around the rubberbanding effect, so Android would not offend those claims of Apple’s patents. However, there is no doubt that Android smartphones and tablets all use pinch-and-zoom. The options are for Android (read: Google) to take a license from Apple, or design around with some alternate gesture. Invalidating the ‘915 patent would be another logical avenue. However, if that tactic had a good chance of success, Samsung would have succeeded by now.
  • The jury form was so complex (have a look for yourself: Jury Form , courtesy of Groklaw) that observers were surprised at how quickly the jury returned a verdict. The jury’s findings and instructions will very likely be the subject of the appeal process.
  • For a patent-by-patent, device-by-device breakdown of the verdict in this case, see this excellent review (courtesy of NDTV).
  • Interestingly, the jury found that Samsung’s devices did NOT infringe Apple’s ‘889 design patent (see our earlier post: Apple and Samsung: The Design Patent Wars Continue).

No comments yet. Be the first.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.