In late June, Apple won one of the many battles that it is
waging against one of its fiercest rivals - South Korea's
Samsung, manufacturer of the Galaxy line of smartphones and
tablets. Riding the wave of Google's Android platform, Samsung
has emerged as the world's biggest handset maker, and arguably
Apple's biggest rival. Apple and Samsung are entagled in more
ways than one, since Samsung also manufactures the A5 chipset
that powers the latest models of iPad and iPhone. As the
saying goes "Keep your friends close and keep your enemies
Apple's latest win resulted in an injunction barring sales of Samsung's
Galaxy Tab in the US. That decision is being appealed. Meanwhile in
the UK, Apple was ordered to publish a notice that Samsung did not copy the
iPad. That decision is being appealed too. All of this is part
of a global war (including Australia, Germany and the
Netherlands) that stems from Apple's claims that Samsung
copied the design of the iPad. This is one of the most interesting
aspects of the case - that worldwide IP infringement claims can be
based on the design of a consumer product, not its function. And
it's a design that is successful precisely because of its
clean, minimalist simplicity that eschews ornamental features of
any kind. Check out this design patent (PDF), filed in 2004, upon
which the US injunction is based, in part. The two companies are
currently headed to a jury trial in the US.
Lessons for business?
Don't forget to review relatively simple forms of
intellectual property in your IP strategy. In this
case, a simple industrial design (or in the US, a "design
patent") has provided ammunition in a battle between two of
the most sophisticated technology companies on the planet.
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