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Apple patent victory puts Samsung devices in jeopardy

Terrence O'Brien, @TerrenceOBrien
September 17, 2015
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Apple has won another small victory in its never-ending patent row with Samsung. The war that nobody asked for (and like most wars will have no winners, only losers) rages on with another appeals court decision. This one went in favor of Apple (as all but a few have), ruling that the company could force Samsung to stop using particular features on its cellphones and tablets. The ruling, while relatively narrow in scope, could still have significant consequences for Samsung and other device manufacturers.

The opinion from the court stated that "the right to exclude competitors from using one's property rights is important." What makes this particularly notable is that in this case we're talking about specific, individual features and technologies in a complex device. If the ruling stands that means that future devices from any company could be delayed or even removed from the market temporarily over seemingly minor features. For example, the ability to slide to unlock your phone.

Apple won an initial trial saying that Samsung had violated its patents on slide-to-unlock, autocorrect and quicklinks. But the judge at the time declined to force Samsung to change its designs and instead only awarded Cupertino monetary damages. That wasn't enough for Apple which has continued to chase a full victory in the court system.

Of course, this is hardly the end of the fight. Samsung is appealing the decision, as well as the original decision finding that it had violated Apple's patents. And right now the case is being sent back to a lower court to reconsider an injunction. However, the court systems appear to be tiring of these constant skirmishes as much as the public.

While in general the patent skirmishes between these two companies and its proxies have have died down, they haven't ended completely. We can all hope that one day there will be an Apple / Samsung peace accord, but for now it seems the best case scenario is that the collateral damage doesn't extend to consumer choice.

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