Apple has won more than $1 billion in a massive US court victory over Samsung, in one of the biggest patent cases in decades -- a verdict that could have huge market repercussions.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 tablet (front) is among the devices a jury said had copied patented ideas from the Apple iPad (rear).
It could be weeks or months before the court decides whether to ban sales of some Samsung products in the US, but the industry is already preparing for changes.
Pressure will mount on smartphone makers to create handsets that stand apart from the iPhone and deliver more choices for consumers in the $220-billion market, said analysts.
They were commenting after a jury in San Jose, California awarded $1.05 billion in damages on Friday, saying Samsung had infringed six patents for mobile devices.
The verdict strengthens Apple’s hand as it seeks to discourage Samsung and competitors such as HTC and LG Electronics from making devices that mimic the iPhone.
While it’s a blow to efforts by Samsung and its Android operating system partner Google, the outcome will probably mean a broader range of choices for consumers as rivals seek to avoid costly legal tussles, said Carl Howe, an analyst at Yankee Group in Boston.
"This is a big win for Apple," said Howe. "It’s good for innovation. It says that if you create something new, others can’t just piggyback on it."
The nine-member California jury decided the case with some 700 separate claims in less than three days of deliberations. It rejected Samsung’s patent counterclaims against Apple and its request for damages. The jury also determined that all of Apple’s patents at stake in the trial were valid.
The verdict affects patents on a range of Samsung products including some of its popular Galaxy smartphones and its Galaxy 10 tablet -- devices alleged to have been copied from the iPhone and iPad.
But some devices are not affected, including the flagship Galaxy III S recently released, although they could be targeted in separate litigation.
Samsung said the verdict was "not the final word" in this case or other similar battles around the world.
"Today's verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer," Samsung said in a statement.
Apple could add to its victory should US District Judge Lucy Koh, who presided over the trail, decide to ban Samsung devices from the US based on the jury’s findings of infringement. Koh, who could also triple the damages awarded, will consider the injunction request at a later date.
However, some analysts believe that while the court defeat may dent Samsung's $21-billion cash pile, it could actually help cement its leadership in the global smartphone market.
The phone and tablet business accounted for 70% of Samsung's net profit of $4.5 billion in the second quarter to June 30. It sold around 50 million phones -- twice as many as Apple -- worldwide in that period.
But with its proven skill in quickly matching others' innovations, Samsung could have tweaked, non-infringing devices on the US market very soon after any ban came into place.
"Samsung has already made some design changes to new products since the litigation first started more than a year ago," said Seo Won-seok, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.
"With the ruling, they are now more likely to make further changes or they could simply decide to raise product prices to cover patent-related payments."
Also, Apple's demands for Samsung to pay it a royalty on its phone sales could hit rival phones using Google's Android operating system more than it hits Samsung.
If anything, the blaze of publicity from the high-profile, high-stakes US litigation has made Samsung's brand more recognisable. It already sells twice as many smartphones as Apple in China, where the Apple iPad has fallen to fourth place in the tablet market.
"The impact on Samsung will be quite limited, as affected models are mostly legacy products and its new products did make some design changes to avoid potential litigation," said D.J. Jung, a patent attorney for SU Intellectual Property in Seoul.
Even though Samsung's flagship Galaxy S III phone was not involved in the trial, the jury validated Apple's patents on features and design elements that Apple could then try to wield against that product.
In a research note before the verdict, UBS analysts said an Apple win could, in the long run, hurt the US firm "as the real threat is not a competitor beating Apple at its own game, but instead changing the game.
"The likelihood of Apple being leapfrogged or a rival creating a new category (of device) is greater if [the rival has] to think out of the box. If they just copy Apple, like Coke, Apple can claim to be 'the real thing'."
One other beneficiary of the ruling could be Microsoft Corp, which is making a major push in the mobile market based on its new Windows 8 after years of struggling.
Microsoft stands to benefit if manufacturers seek alternatives to Google's Android operating system to avoid being sued by Apple, said said Kevin Rivette, a former vice-president of intellectual property strategy for IBM.
"Microsoft is a big winner," he said. "The licensees will start moving away from Android. They’re businesspeople."
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