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Apple, Samsung go head-to-head over handset patents

Apple Inc. has filed a lawsuit claiming that Samsung Electronics ?slavishly? copied the iPhone and iPad for its Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets based on Google?s Android operating system.

In this case, Apple asserted that Samsung infringes seven of its utility and three design patents, for example, the appearance of the screen icons on Galaxy devices. An Apple spokesperson said that Samsung?s blatant copying was ?wrong,? while a Samsung spokesperson said the company would ?actively? protect its intellectual property, according to various reports. 

?The Apple utility patents cover many of the elements implemented in Apple's mobile devices, including fundamental features of the [trademarked] Multi-Touch user interface that enable Apple's devices to understand user gestures and to respond by performing a wide variety of functions, such as selecting, scrolling, pinching, and zooming, as well as the arrangement of text messages on the screen, to the way images and documents appear to ?bounce back? when the user scrolls too far, down to movement of the buttons,? said Michael Fainberg, New York-based attorney at Arent Fox LLP.

The asserted utility patents include U.S. Patent No. 7,812,828 entitled ?Ellipse Fitting For Multi-Touch Surfaces?, U.S. Patent No. 7,669,134 entitled ?Method and Apparatus For Displaying Information During An Instant Messaging Session?, U.S. Patent No. 6,493,002 entitled ?Method and Apparatus for Displaying and Accessing Control and Status Information in a Computer System?, U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381 entitled ?List Scrolling and Document Translation, Scaling and Rotation on a Touch-Screen Display?, U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915 entitled ?Application Programming Interfaces for Scrolling Operations?, U.S. Patent No. 7,853,891 entitled ?Method and Apparatus for Displaying a Window for a User Interface?, and U.S. Patent No. 7,863,533 entitled ?Cantilevered Push Button Having Multiple Contacts and Fulcrums.?

?The asserted Apple design patents cover the many famous ornamental features of Apple's devices, such as the flat black face, metallic bezel and the distinctive matrix of application icons,? Mr. Fainberg said.

The asserted design patents include U.S. Patent No. D627,790 entitled ?Graphical User Interface For a Display Screen or Portion Thereof?, U.S. Patent No. D602,016 entitled ?Electronic Device? and U.S. Patent No. D618,677 entitled ?Electronic Device.?

As revealed in the side-by-side comparisons between drawings of the above designs patented and Samsung Galaxy mobile phone provided in the complaint, many of the patented features of Apple products appear to have been used in the Samsung mobile device.

?Given Apple?s formidable patent portfolio consisting of thousands of U.S. and foreign patents and the ever-growing popularity of Apple?s mobile devices, we can expect to see many more lawsuits brought by Apple against other mobile device manufactures for the infringement of Apple?s utility and design patents covering the functionality and features of the Apple?s mobile devices, including iPod, iPhone and iPad,? Mr. Fainberg said.

Charles Macedo, partner at Amster, Rothstein & Ebenstein LLP, New York, declined comment on the merit of the patents, but did comment on his take on the strategy behind Apple filing the patent lawsuit.

?The [mobile device] industry as a whole has been using patents as a barrier to entry for competing platforms, as they should,? Mr. Macedo said. ?If you invest in research and development and you share the benefits with the public, it is a quid pro quo?you get a patent for what you added to public knowledge.

?This is one of many patent litigations filed over the past few years in the space, and it has expanded the battle that Apple and Google have been fighting over their various platforms to bring in another one of Google?s customers,? he said. ?It is going beyond fighting Google?Apple is fighting Google?s customer, and they are using their patents to do it.

?I do think it is significant that you?re seeing the mobile phone industry turn to patents to protect what they see as their exclusive turf, and I do not believe this will be the last lawsuit you see in this area.?

Final Take
Samsung's Kim Titus