There is one certainty following the outcome of the Apple/Samsung patent case late last month: both companies’ legal teams are set for weeks of extra work. The San Jose courtroom that was packed with business and technology journalists for most of August will be the venue again as Apple attempts to have eight Samsung devices pulled from sale in the US.
Samsung has vowed to appeal after the court ruled it must pay Apple $1.05bn in damages. The company claims the case damages consumers by limiting choice. In a separate development, Apple is now targeting Samsung’s big hitters for 2012 – its bestselling Galaxy S III smartphone and Galaxy Note – by launching legal action to ban them from sale.
But what of the UK? Apple lost two patent cases in UK courts in little over a week in July. One of those was against Samsung, when a UK high court judge infamously said the Korean manufacturer’s tablets were ‘not cool’ enough to be confused with the iPad.
But while Apple is attempting to ban the sale of multiple Samsung smartphones and tablets in the US, some believe that the UK market could benefit if the Korean manufacturer chooses to fightback overseas. The size and impact of Samsung’s marketing war chest in the UK has been the envy of rivals for some time now. One distributor source claimed this week that if the company is being held back in the US, it could bring increasing focus to a market where it already performs well.
He said: ‘The thing about this case is that if it does have an effect on Samsung trading in the US, it will prioritise other markets. That could lead to a big push in the UK as it might want to give Apple a kicking in another region.’ This could be bad news for Samsung’s other rivals, who are already battling to turn the British duopoly into something more competitive.
However, another distributor source suggested that Samsung may explore other avenues of revenue in the UK, as the consumer market is already highly competitive. He said: ‘It may make [Samsung] look more closely at innovating in the b2b or NFC spaces and try to own that space before competitors do. If you look at BlackBerry, it pioneered the business space and still effectively does, despite its recent problems.’
The issue of competition is something that irks retailers and operators, as for too long they have been selling Apple and Samsung devices in huge numbers while the rest of the market lags behind. An optimistic reading of the patent case is that it will lead to greater innovation, as companies try to move away from the infamous black rectangles with rounded corners that have caused so many problems in court.
The more negative view is that companies will be more wary when they build new devices because anything they do could land them in court. One source said: ‘These cases do not do anyone any favours apart from the winner. It could lead to other manufacturers being more cautious when they are making future products. They could be second-guessing themselves thinking, “does this infringe on anyone else’s products?”.’
Another added: ‘If you are in a position where a company is using patents to stop another company from operating, that could be good for the industry if the others raise their game and produce innovations of their own. But it could also further strengthen Apple’s hand as it is stopping rivals from going about their business.’
The industry is also looking to Research In Motion and Nokia, which have eschewed the Android platform and are promising great things from their forthcoming handsets, running BlackBerry 10 and Windows Phone 8 respectively.
However, Nokia was due to reveal its Windows Phone 8 portfolio this week, and the leaked photos preceding the event promised brightly coloured red and yellow handsets, as far away from the minimal desirability of the iPhone as you can get.
One operator said: ‘RIM and Nokia have been trying to cut their own path and have not been copying what Apple has done. What they have produced so far hasn’t been very good but they are trying to innovate. Android does look a bit ‘me too’ at the moment. If Google can get its act together and really start innovating that will be great for everyone.’