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Split Patent Ruling for Apple, Samsung in South Korea
Split Patent Ruling for Apple, Samsung in South Korea

By Jennifer LeClaire
August 24, 2012 1:09PM

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With regard to Samsung copying the iPhone's iconic design, "It is not possible to assert that these two designs are similar based only on the similarity of those features," the Seoul court said. The court also ruled that the large rectangular screen with rounded corners in electronic devices existed before Apple's iPhone hit the market.

While a federal jury in California deliberates the outcome of a patent infringement trial between Apple and Samsung, a court in South Korea meantime has issued a split ruling in other intellectual property suits between the two technology giants.

Apple sued Samsung in South Korea for violating its iPhone patents, but a three-judge panel in Seoul Central District Court ruled Apple did some violating of its own. The court ruled the two rivals infringed on one another's patents and is forcing the companies to stop selling some smartphones and tablets in South Korea, as well as pay damages.

The Seoul court ruled Apple infringed on two of Samsung's technology patents, while Samsung trespassed on one of Apple's patents. The damages were nominal: Apple has to pay $17,650 to Samsung and Samsung has to pay $22,000 to Apple.

Samsung Uses the 'M' Word

With regard to Samsung copying the iPhone's iconic design, "It is not possible to assert that these two designs are similar based only on the similarity of those features," the court said in a ruling issued in Korean that was translated into English by The Associated Press. The court also ruled that the large rectangular screen with rounded corners in electronic devices existed before the iPhone hit the market.

The court ruled that South Korea-based Samsung did trespass on an Apple-patented feature that makes the screen bounce back when a user scrolls to an end image, the AP reported. Apple, meanwhile, violated Samsung wireless technology patents.

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment, but Samsung issued a statement: "We welcome today's ruling, which affirms our position that Apple has been using our mobile telecommunications standards patents without having obtained the necessary licenses. Today's ruling also affirmed our position that one single company cannot monopolize generic design features."

What About the U.S. Case?

This isn't an end to the matter, though. Apple sued Samsung on Apple's home turf, the U.S. District Court of Northern California, in April. That suit alleges that Samsung created illegal copies of the iPhone and iPad.

Apple wants $2.5 billion to remedy those alleged violations. Samsung is fighting back. That case went to a jury this week.

"I believe there are 13 lawsuits around the world [on this matter]. It's going to be awhile before each of these lawsuits is resolved and we have some sense of what the impact is going to be, both financially and in terms of handset design," said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis.

"Companies infringe on each other's patents all the time. That's what patent licensing is all about. The real question is whether there's going to be a tipping point where it becomes clear to one of the parties that they will have to settle on the other one's terms."

Greengart recalls the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs saying something along the lines of being out for blood. In other words, it wasn't about monetary compensation. He's not sure what Apple's negotiating stance is now.

"Right now it would seem that we haven't reached that tipping point yet where it's obvious that one company is winning a majority of the cases or that the way they are winning is onerous enough on the other party to settle across the board," Greengart said.

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