Apple v. Samsung: What's wrong with this verdict?

The jury has spoken and Apple has won. Consumers? Not so much. Reinventing the wheel isn't going to help anyone, says Cringely

Last week I took a mini break, rented a car, and drove up the coast for a few days. When I sat down in my rental I found a steering wheel directly in front of me, with a speedometer visible on the dashboard behind it. The slot for the key was just below the wheel and to the right. The accelerator pedal was on the floor beneath my right foot, the brake pedal to the left of that. The gear shift was on a console in the middle between the two front bucket sets and the variable-speed wipers were on a stick attached to the right side of the wheel.

It did take me a few minutes to find the lights, which were on a dial to the left and below the wheel. Otherwise, though I'd never driven that car before, I was able to operate it immediately.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman defends design patents and says why the verdict is good for Android. | Take a look back at Cringely's view of the Apple/Samsung patent battle: "Apple and Samsung: You can't make this stuff up." | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. | Get the latest insight on the tech news that matters from InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog. ]

Off the Record submissions

If that car design had been software that was patented by, say, Apple, I might still be in the parking lot trying to figure out how to get the damned thing into reverse. Yet that is the future suggested by Friday's verdict in the Apple v. Samsung case.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice breakdown of how the jury ruled on each of Apple's seven and Samsung's five claims of infringement. According to that jury:

  • 16 Samsung phones and tablets infringed Apple's patents on enlarging documents by tapping on the screen
  • 21 Samsung phones and tablets infringed on Apple's patents for "bounceback" when reaching the edge of the screen
  • 22 phones and tablets infringed Apple's patents because they did different things when you touched the screen differently
  • 13 Samsung phones infringed Apple's patents because they used icons with rounded square edges featuring images of objects like telephones
  • 13 Samsung phones infringed Apple's patents because they were essentially rectangles with rounded corners

The jury denied all of Samsung's claims, which had less do to with aesthetics and more to do with the inner workings of the software -- for example, how devices manage battery life, allow for multitasking, or switch between features. That's apparently harder to determine than whether something has rounded corners.

There's been a lot of speculation as to why the jury returned a verdict so much faster than anyone expected -- in just three days -- despite the fact they had 109 pages of jury instructions to plow through before filling out a 700-plus-item questionnaire.

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