For the half-year to 31 December 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Rebecca Gulbul, Lucas Michels and Marie-Andrée Weiss.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Fighting like Cat and Dog - The Apple/Samsung Spat Continues

Despite being one of Samsung’s best customers (with recent contracts for components worth $7.8 billion if reports are to be believed), Apple has not let good business get in the way of a good fight. Having already taken its bat home over the alleged infringement of its Community designs, and having won a preliminary EU-wide injunction in the German courts a few weeks ago - noted by the IPKat here – which was then temporarily suspended in all states excluding Germany (see the report on FOSS Patents here), the spat continues. Today’s instalment comes courtesy of the Rechtbank’s-Gravenhage in The Hague, where (according to de Rechtspraak and the delights of Google Translate) a judge has:

“prohibited the marketing of Samsung smartphones Galaxy S, S II and Ace for violation of Apple Inc. EP 2,058,868. The judge points off debts [no, I have no idea either] based on EP 2098948, EP 1964022, designs, copyrights and slavish (style) imitation.”
The injunction granted is “Europe-wide” (although it has to be said this must be in a somewhat limited sense as Apple’s EP 2059868 (Portable electronic device for photo management) has lapsed in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Spain – see here), and, according to FOSS Patents, is due to take effect in seven weeks.

The decision itself is available here (in Dutch - link courtesy of Engadget), but for those who are hungry for yet more machine translation, the Kat can reveal (again via Rechtspraak) that:
“Apple has infringed on three of its patents and in several of her (registered) Community Design rights and copyright in the matter of her Ipad 1 and 2 and 4 and the iPhone 3G, Apple, and finally slavish (style) imitation. The infringement committed by Samsung include tablet PCs with its Galaxy and Galaxy Tab Tab 10.1 and 10.1v and its smartphones Galaxy S, S II and Ace.”
Which the Kat assumes means that Apple complained of infringement of three of its patents and some registered designs. As far as he can tell, however, the judge found infringement of the EP 2059868 patent only. Samsung is, according to tweakers.net, apparently planning to patch the offending app and continue selling the phones.

So now you know.

6 comments:

Prometheus said...

At first sight EP 2059868 seems to relate to a method for transition between computer objects (i.e. pictures) on a computer screen, where one picture "rests" before moving on to the next.

Assuming that this is the only novel part of the claim, this is surely an aestethic creation AND/OR presentation of information according to Article 52 (2) b/d EPC?

Anonymous said...

The court has issued a press release in English.

Note that it states EP2058868, but the correct number is EP2059868.

The gallery app of the Galaxy S, S II and Ace is infringing (i.e. the standard Android 2.x gallery app). The gallery app of the Galaxy Tab is not infringing (i.e. the standard Android 3.x gallery app). So this is easy to fix for Samsung (and for Google, since this is an Android issue).

Anonymous said...

The method is about navigating through a photo gallery using a touch screen. I'd say the human-machine interaction here is technical and the implied graphical effects don't detract from that.

Claim 1 reads (the physical object being your finger):
"A computer-implemented method, comprising:
at a device with a touch screen display:
detecting a first movement of a physical object on or near the touch screen display;
while detecting the first movement, translating a first digital object displayed on the touch screen display in a first direction, wherein the first digital object is associated with a set of digital objects; characterized in that:

in response to display of a previously hidden edge of the first digital object and continued detection of the first movement,
displaying an area beyond the edge of the first digital object;
after the first movement is no longer detected, translating the first digital object in a second direction until the area beyond the edge of the first digital object is no longer displayed;
detecting a second movement of the physical object on or near the touch screen display; and
in response to detecting the second movement while the previously hidden edge of the first digital object is displayed, translating the first digital object in the first direction and displaying a second digital object in the set of digital objects."

First you slide with your finger the photo being displayed a bit to the side and let loose, after which the photo snaps back. Then you slide with your finger the photo to the side for a second time, after which the photo slides away and the next photo appears.

According to the court's interpretation of the claim, it is mandatory that the photo snaps back after the first sliding movement. In the closest prior art (WO 03/081458) the first slide may already bring in the next photo (or rather, digital object) depending on how far you slide.

The court's interpretation seems incorrect to me. Maybe it can be derived from the description, but it simply does not follow from the claim. The claim certainly can be read as describing one way of using the closest prior art, so it's not new. In my unhumble opinion, if something else was meant Apple should have formulated the claim more carefully. (As an aside, it is interesting that a mobile phone can directly infringe a method of using the phone. Seems to me there could at most be contributory infringement of claim 1 by a phone.)

The Galaxy S, S II and Ace actually normally use the method of the closest prior art (i.e. the first sliding movement results either in snapping back or snapping to the next photo), except when the user has zoomed in on the photo currently being displayed. In the latter case, two sliding movements are indeed necessary to get to the next photo.

The Galaxy Tab uses the method of the closest prior art even when the user has zoomed in, so does not infringe the claim as interpreted by the court.

Interestingly, Apple argued that the two sliding movements are completely independent (see par. 4.21). That is, Apple effectively admitted that the claim is anticipated by the closest prior art. The court rejected this argument mainly based on the distinction between claim 1 and the closest prior art(!!).

Japser said...

In my opinion, it is particularly interesting to see that the Dutch court still issues cross-border injunctions.

Will this lead to more cases in the Dutch patent court? And/or will this lead to accelerated processing of Case C-616/10 before the European Court of Justice? This case is specifically mentioned in the decision - and the court indicates that while the questions are pending, it can issue cross-border injunctions in prelimary proceedings.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a bit surprised that an EPO examiner let through a claim with "on or near" as a positional feature. I don't see any explanation in the description of how close to the touchscreen "near" is supposed to mean, which results in a pretty obvious Art. 84 objection. Apart from that, since the touchscreen is quite clearly defined as a touch-sensitive screen, there could also be question of insufficient disclosure under Art. 83 (even if there is much talk of a "proximity sensor" throughout the description.
I'm also quite surprised to see that Google, Samsung et al allowed the opposition periods for all these touch interface patents of Apple to lapse. Were they asleep? It isn´t as if Apple had made a secret of these patents or of what they intended to do with them...

Anonymous said...

Well, there's simply no opposition whatsoever in this technical field... There's hardly any opposition in the whole computer field. Maybe that will start to change now.

If I'm not mistaken Apple summoned Samsung exactly two days before expiry of the opposition period for EP2059868.

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