Apple and Samsung both guilty

By John Leonard
24 Aug 2012 View Comments

In a case that has been running parallel to the intellectual property lawsuit between Apple and Samsung in the USA, a South Korean court ruled today that Apple had violated two of Samsung's patents, while the Korean firm had infringed on one of Apple's.

The judge awarded damages to Apple of 25m Won (£14,000) for Samsung's violation of the "rubber-banding" or bounce-back function on its smartphones and tablets - the way that the graphics bounce back when a user scrolls to the end of a file or screen. In turn, Apple was ordered to pay Samsung 40m Won (£22,000) for infringing on two of Samsung's wireless technology patents.

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As a result of the ruling the judge banned the sale of some of each company's products for sale in South Korea. Apple's iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPad and iPad 2, and Samsung's Galaxy S and S II smartphones were immediately blocked from sale, as were as two models of the Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet computer.

The ruling is likely to be seen as largely symbolic, both because of the size of awards - miniscule in comparison with the multi-billion dollar damages being sought by Apple in the US lawsuit - and for the fact that the latest products are unaffected. Current Galaxy models no longer use the rubber-banding technology. Apple has a small share of the South Korean market and its latest products, including the iPhone 4S and iPad 3, were excluded from the ban.

Perhaps more significant is the court ruling against Apple's claims that Samsung had copied the designs of its products, such as the use of rounded corners and large touchscreens.

"Given that it's very limited to make big design changes in touchscreen based mobile products in general... and the defendant (Samsung) differentiated its products with three buttons in the front and adopted different designs in camera and [on the] side, the two products have a different look," a judge at the Seoul Central District Court told Reuters.

The ruling against Apple could also make the company vulnerable to further Samsung lawsuits in South Korea over its latest models, which continue to use Samsung's wireless technology.

Apple is also a major user of chips made by the Samsung Electronics' semiconductor division for it's iPhone and iPad, a relationship that accounts for about 9 per cent of Samsung's revenue.

Both companies are free to appeal the decision and to take it, eventually, to South Korea's Supreme Court.

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