Obvious trials are part bombast, part boredom. Lurid accusations of corporate skulduggery and deceit quickly cave in to a mind-numbing slog with the technical details and vague terminology of patent claims.
A jury will be asked to sort through all that to settle any dispute between Apple and Samsung Electronics beginning Monday in the federal court in San Jose, Calif.
The jury trial is the most up-to-date phase in a global strategy of smartphone patent litigation that began more than two years ago. The legal clashes mainly hole Apple against rival smartphone manufacturers whose handsets are powered through Google’s Android software, notably Samsung, HTC and Motorola Mobility, which Google bought last 12 months. Dozens of lawsuits and countersuits are actually filed in courtrooms world wide.
Yet the escalating patent battle is more than just legal maneuvering. Patents can be powerful tools for determining the policies of engagement for major companies within a fast-growing industry like smartphones.
Patents are declarations of invention which might be often easily obtained from government patent examiners, but their real value – their own validity and strength – is decided in court.
A few significant rulings in favor of one side or the various other, industry and patent experts claim, could shape the competitive landscape in smartphones and also a sister industry, tablet computers. Court decisions, they say, can provide the basis regarding negotiating the terms and cost of licensing and cross-licensing of patents – or for preserving certain patented features exclusive to one company.
“Once you determine who is the genuine innovator, and in what technologies around the product, you reset the playing area, ” said Kevin G. Rivette, a Silicon Valley patent consultant and former vice president for intellectual property strategy for I. B. M.
But to bring a real shift out there, Mr. Rivette added, one side must have “strong patents, not incremental ones. “
That issue is much contested, and litigated, in the smartphone arena.
Apple scored some points within June. Judge Lucy H. Koh, who will also preside on the jury trial that begins this specific week, issued a preliminary injunction towards Samsung, ordering it to stop offering its Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the usa.
Judge Koh found that Samsung had infringed while on an Apple patent for a “universal interface, ” which broadly describes crucial ingredients within Siri, Apple’s question-answering application (though the patent itself was filed through Apple before it acquired Siri in 2010).
But the power of smartphone patents generally speaking suffered a blow in another federal court in June.
Richard A. Posner, a prominent federal appeals the courtroom judge in Chicago, dismissed a case involving Apple company and Google’s Motorola Mobility additional. In his “pox on both of your respective houses” ruling, Judge Posner ridiculed Apple’s broad claims for the user-experience patents and Motorola’s declare that Apple should pay it a rich royalty on its simple communications patents. Both companies are appealing in which ruling.
Fierce patent battles in new industries are already the rule for greater century, from the steam engine in order to semiconductors. The lessons of history are decidedly mixed.
Sometimes, patent warriors can hold off rivals for many years, as the Wright brothers did inside airplane business – though the price in time, money and innovative energy diverted has been daunting even then. In 1912, Wilbur Wright wrote, “When we think what organic beef have accomplished if we were being able to devote this time for it to experiments, we are very sad. “
In smartphones, some analysts say, the sheer number of patents and also the speed of innovation in product development undermine the ability of patents. Because a smartphone combines numerous communications and computing technologies, as many as 250, 000 patents may touch these devices, according to estimates by RPX, a patent licensing company.
“You necessarily litigate individual patents, but there are thousands of patents behind those in court, ” said Mark A. Lemley, a patent expert at the Stanford Law School. “That complexity and the speed of innovation might make it easier to invent round the patent system in smartphones. “
Indeed, for its new Galaxy types, Samsung developed an alternative to one of the Apple-patented features cited in this week’s trial.