On August 24, a California court ruled in favor of Apple in its patent-infringement case against Samsung, hitting the latter with a $1.05 billion fine. Tech pundits spent the weekend chattering about the possible repercussions of the decision, which Samsung will surely appeal. One of the biggest issues under discussion: how Apple’s victory will affect Google Android, the operating system that powers the majority of Samsung’s mobile devices, and itself a player in the patent-infringement actions shaking the tech world.
For its part, Google made every effort to create some distance between Android and the smoking ruins of Samsung’s case. “The court of appeals will review both infringement and the validity of the patent claims,” the company wrote in a widely circulated statement. “Most of these don’t relate to the core Android operating system, and several are being re-examined by the US Patent Office.”
Google didn’t end there. “The mobile industry is moving fast and all players—including newcomers—are building upon ideas that have been around for decades,” the statement continued. “We work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that.”
Android already finds itself under pressure from Microsoft’s legal team, which has corralled a growing number of manufacturers into Android licensing agreements. Microsoft has long claimed that Android infringes on a number of patents. If an emboldened Apple decides to embrace a similar strategy and fire off patent-infringement lawsuits against Motorola (a Google subsidiary) or other Android device manufacturers, it could make things even more complicated and expensive for Google.
As pointed out by any number of tech pundits, a number of companies stand to potentially benefit from the Samsung decision, particularly if manufacturers decide to give Android alternatives a second look. Those alternatives include Microsoft’s Windows Phone, which has struggled to gain more market-share despite generally positive reviews, and the upcoming BlackBerry 10, which Research In Motion could license to other companies.
But any mobile operating system will still need to face Android and Apple’s iOS, which continue to split the majority of the market. Apple is expected to release its next-generation iPhone in September; if past history is any indication, the device will sell millions of units and make the competitive landscape that much more interesting for any company readying a rival product for release within the next few months.
Meanwhile, an internal Samsung memo asked employees and customers to maintain faith in the company. “The NDCA [US District Court for the Northern District of California] verdict starkly contrasts decisions made by courts in a number of other countries,” it read at one point. “These courts also recognized our arguments concerning our standards patents.”
That memo concluded: “We trust that the consumers and the market will side with those who prioritize innovation over litigation, and we will prove this beyond doubt.”
Translation: get ready for a drawn-out appeals process.