Court may force Apple to show Samsung the next version of iPad and iPhone
Giving up secrets may be part of normal IP suits, but mobile market is in for a lot more turmoil
Apple, which is as famous within the IT universe for its paranoia and culture of secrecy, may be forced to show Samsung its next-generation version of its iPad and iPhone, after getting a court to order Samsung to show its next-generation smartphones as evidence in a patent dispute.
Apple -- which is suing Samsung for "slavishly" copying the iPhone and iPad, infringing on 10 patents and two trademarks in the process -- got a U.S. Federal Court to rule earlier this month that Samsung had to show Apple what it was working on to prove Samsung wasn't knocking off Apple's designs.
Samsung countersued Apple in Germany, Japan and Korea, charging Apple was infringing on five patents on wireless-networking technology, then asked the same federal court judge to force Apple to show its goods as well.
Samsung's motion said Apple had already agreed the big reveal should be reciprocal, and should happen by June 17.
U.S. Federal Court Judge Lucy Koh hasn't ruled on Samsung's motion, but was pretty clear about her intentions, according to Computerworld's quote from an earlier hearing:
"At the close of the hearing the Court stated: 'And let me just say to counsel for Apple, I'm not going to be happy if you're not [sic] going to say what's good for the goose is not good for the gander. Okay?'" the motion read.
The suit and counter-suit themselves aren't that big a deal, as technology businesses go. Tech companies have to copy each others' new features; there is only a limited number of ways to accomplish anything technical; IT-business patents are written as broadly as possible to give the lawyers plenty of room for interpretation when they sue someone else.
As the devices get smaller, the functions become more similar and the competition increases as more and more manufacturers try to tap the scalding-hot tablet and smartphone market, the interactions become more incestuous and overlap more likely.
Microsoft, for example, is making five times as much from the number of Android devices other people sell than it is from its own Windows Phone, according to Mobiledia. HTC settled a patent dispute with Microsoft in April, 2010 by agreeing to pay $5 to Microsoft for each Android HTC sold.
After HTC settled an intellectual-property dispute with Microsoft in April 2010, HTC agreed to pay Microsoft $5 for every Android device HTC sells.
The result was $150 million in revenue for Microsoft to bolster the $30 million it made from Windows Phone since November.
That's irrelevant to companies buying either Android or Windows Phone.
eBay's lawsuit accusing Google of infringement for the phone-based mobile payment system Google just introduced might mean more.
When infringement suits start hitting the actual functions customers use, the result isn't just inside-the-industry gossip fodder. It's a legal ruling that changes the way customers choose to move money and the partnerships they form.
If eBay is successful in getting Google to desist, eBay's Paypal subsidiary is likely to get a portion of any service fees, or even a place in the transaction flow from whatever mobile-payment plan Google comes up with.
Again, not a revolutionary change. The same thing happens when one big vendor buys another. Suddently, you're in business with a company you weren't before. Sometimes that's OK.
Sometimes it means getting sucked into the vortex of a company you've been avoiding for years for its policy of letting good products die from a lack of new development, or whose licensing and business practices you hate more than their products.
As the press gets tighter for vendors in the mobile market, those conflicts and involuntary business connections will be getting a lot more common.