Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Should Google be running scared from Apple after what they did to Samsung?

Apple sue us next? Not a chance.

That's the gist of Google's message following Apple's $1 billion victory over Samsung in a California patent suit. The search giant is doing its best to quell fears that its Android operating system could be the next target for Apple's lawyers. And you can't blame them.

Google has to do something to keep its partners in the smartphone and tablet world from panicking, to say nothing of investors. But experts say that while the Apple vs. Samsung suit didn't describe a legal route that leads directly to Mountain View, Google had better watch its back.

Apple vs. Samsung ripped apart both the hardware and software used in Samsung's very popular smartphones and tablets. Arguments hinged on whether certain hardware features -- like a bezeled display and a lozenge-shaped earpiece -- had been ripped off from Apple by Samsung's designers. A jury decided that in multiple instances they had.

Apple also filed claims that Samsung developed operating system features that violated Apple patents. Samsung licenses Google's Android operating system for its tablets and phones, and makes changes to personalize the user experience. Those small changes include pinch-to-zoom, tap-to-zoom, and bounce-back features, which fall under Apple-owned utility patents.

Google, which has stayed silent about the case until now, said Monday that these utility patent features aren't part of the core Android operating system, which runs underneath Samsung's and other device manufacturer's modifications.

Google gives its licensees a plain, stock version of the Android operating system, which by itself does not violate Apple's patents. However, licensees can modify the Android system and build any feature they like, and those features could violate other patented technologies.

Here's Google's full statement in reaction to the verdict:
"The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims. Most of these don't relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office.

The mobile industry is moving fast and all players -- including newcomers -- are building upon ideas that have been around for decades.
We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don't want anything to limit that."

Phillip Philbin, an intellectual property attorney with national law firm Haynes and Boone, says Google's statement is a message to its partners that the verdict only applies to Samsung's products, and not the entire Android ecosystem.

"It's essentially Google saying that the patent issues apply to Samsung's software changes and Samsung's hardware, but not to 'core' Android or other Android products," says Philbin.

Looking at the case, Purdue law professor Mark McKenna says Google is focusing on distancing itself from the pinch-to-zoom, the tap-to-zoom, and the bounce-back features that Samsung created, saying they aren't included in its base Android code. "Google's claim is that those features are part of the modified experience from other companies that license the Android operating system," says McKenna.

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