A verdict for Apple will not end the iClones

Is it hardware or software patents that might hurt Samsung most and intimidate Apple imitations?

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Internal Samsung documents relating to iPhone comparisons, as submitted by Apple during ongoing litigation

Image via AllThingsD.

What is the measure of a tiny computer? Is it the “rectangular shape and rounded edges” of its casing? The “bounce-back effect when (you try) to scroll beyond the end of a list or (web) page”? Or is it something more, something about the device intends to do, how it does it, and how it’s sold to the people who buy it?

Those are the issues at the heart of the Apple v. Samsung court case, now entering its final week and due for a jury decision soon. And the New York Times suggests that the verdict will affect other device makers, either by scaring them from making anything resembling an Apple product or, if Apple mostly loses, emboldening them to continue using the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook as a standard. They quote analysts, they quote legal scholars, they find a few different sources to say that, indeed, if a judge declares that Samsung’s devices are too much like Apple’s devices and makes the leading Android smartphone maker hand over $2.5 billion in penalties, it could intimidate other device makers.

On the one hand: “Guys, Apple winning a $2.5 billion lawsuit over patent infringement might make big companies take notice, and the Times is on it.”.

On the other: Let’s take a look at one technical aspect of the case that is, in fact, quite interesting, especially with some knowledge of recent history.

As written in the Times story:

Simply being inspired by Apple’s products is not illegal, said Jorge Contreras, an associate professor of law at American University. He says that Apple’s claims of Samsung infringement on its design patents, a class of inventions related to the exterior look of the iPhone and iPad, are weaker than its arguments for its “utility patents” in the case, which protect various software functions.

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