Samsung is countersuing Apple, arguing that Apple infringed on several of its patents: compression technology that allows video transmission via FaceTime, and a feature that allows users to organize videos and photos. Samsung does not claim it invented those technologies; it bought the patents from Hitachi and a group of American inventors.
Apple is arguing that by ripping off its patented features, Samsung stole iPhone sales and therefore needs to be punished. Apple essentially invented the smartphone and the tablet markets, but being the first to market doesn't guarantee that you'll stay on top forever. In fact, Apple hasn't stayed on top because Android devices offer a real alternative to iOS.
Without Android, Samsung would hardly be a player in smartphones and tablets, which is why Google is the real target here.
Dueling memos show how deep the wounds go
The first days of the trial featured dueling memos. Apple's lawyers, as Brian Chen of the New York Times reported, pointed to a 2010 memo from J.K. Shin, the chief of Samsung's mobile business, to his staff that said the company suffered a "crisis of design," and a comparison between the iPhone and Samsung phones showed the "difference between heaven and earth."
Apple views the memo as a smoking gun and says it shows that Samsung was ready to copy the iPhone because it couldn't make a better product on its own. "Samsung went far beyond the world of competitive intelligence and crossed into the dark side" of copying, said Harold J. McElhinny, an Apple lawyer.
Samsung's lawyer, John B. Quinn, had an internal Apple memo to show jurors, too. He presented a 2010 email from Jobs, then Apple's chief executive, where he declared "holy war" on Google and said Apple needed to play catch-up with Google's cloud services.
This current case is the second mega patent suit that Apple and Samsung have fought in a San Jose courtroom. In 2012, jurors found Samsung guilty of infringing a series of Apple's mobile patents, and last year another jury recalculated a portion of the damages Samsung had to pay, bringing the total to $930 million.
Federal judge Lucy Koh presided over both the earlier trial and this one, which at least guarantees she's on top of the issues. As Chen noted in Times piece, Koh has already decided that Samsung infringed on one of Apple's patents covering a method for automatically correcting incomplete or misspelled words while a person is typing, so Apple has a bit of advantage.
But I'm not going to engage in legal tea-leaf reading. My concern is that fights like this highlight the sad facts that our patent system as a whole is broken, despite some recent reforms, and software patents in particular threaten legitimate competition and innovation.
This article, "In the latest Apple-Samsung battle, Apple's real target is Google," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.