As you may have heard by now, Apple had a rather decisive win in Federal court on Friday over rival device maker Samsung. This was a U.S. case, involving American patents, but are there any China implications of the verdict? The brief answer is not really, at least not yet.
The U.S. dispute is only one of several being fought around the world, including in parts of Europe and Asia. The U.S. case, heard in California, primarily concerned infringement of certain aspects of the iPhone and iPad designs. Samsung lost on the iPhone claims, but Apple came up short on some of the iPad allegations.
Is this the end of the world for Samsung, and do you need to worry that some guy from the USPTO is going to show up at your home and demand you hand over your SII? No, just take a deep breath.
Robert Hof, writing about the U.S. market in Forbes, has a handy list that illustrates why the verdict may not have immediate effect:
This case no doubt will be appealed
You won’t have to surrender your Samsung smartphones or tablets
Smartphone makers will find new ways to emulate (if not copy) Apple’s features
The two companies, with Google lurking in the shadows, might go back to the bargaining table
For the China market, keep in mind that patents are territorial, so if Apple wants to replicate its victory over Samsung here, it must first have the requisite patent portfolio, and then it would have to file in a Chinese court.
So no bans on Samsung devices in China, at least not for the moment. Consumers can therefore relax.
How about manufacturers that produce for the U.S. market? That’s a different story entirely. If Apple manages to win an injunction against infringing Samsung products (that decision will happen within the next week or so), you could definitely see manufacturers in China (and I assume that these products are at least assembled here) take a hit. Without an injunction, we’re possibly talking years before the appeals process winds up completely.
One last area of concern involves other Android device makers in China that sell, or hope to sell, in the U.S. market. You know, the Huaweis, ZTEs and the Xiaomis, those types of guys. This verdict certainly calls into question the strategies of companies that have built Android devices “inspired” by the iPhone. Although we don’t know at this point whether Apple intends to go after other Android competitors, given the Samsung verdict and the whopping 1.05 billion dollar damage award, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Long term, I have a feeling that both Android and Samsung will innovate themselves out of this mess. A combination of licensing deals with Apple and new product design will probably minimize what appears from our vantage point today to be a huge smackdown. This is a blindingly fast industry, and Android is built for flexibility.
If you’re wondering why Apple hasn’t come after Samsung or other Android handset folks over here in China on the same grounds, you won’t get a clear explanation from me. There are way too many reasons why Apple decided to either wait or simply not go down that road at all. I don’t even know what sort of patent portfolio Apple has here, so that discussion is a bit of a non-starter.
To sum up: China consumers needn’t worry, at least for now. Manufacturers will be watching what happens next in the U.S. very closely, particularly with respect to an injunction on U.S. sales. Long term, effected companies will figure out a way to minimize the pain.