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Wednesday, 03 August 2011 10:01

Patent troll Apple could kill smartphone and tablet sales

Written by Nick Farell
apple

All your Android are belong to us
IP experts claim that that Apple is set to take control of smartphones and tablets by becoming one of the worst patent trolls in  the history of IT.

The comments to AP are based on Apple's method of bringing down Samsung. The fear is that Apple's tablet and smartphone patents are so broad that virtually all major competitors could be targeted by the company if it beats Samsung.

Samsung would have to significantly change the Galaxy Tab 10.1 if it hopes to avoid infringing Apple's patents. Apple accused Samsung of infringing 10 of its patents including the "look and feel" and touchscreen technology of the iPad. Jobs' Mob has sought injunctions preventing Samsung from selling or advertising the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and demanded all of Samsung's stock be sent to it to be destroyed.

Samsung has agreed not sell the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. But said that it will release a modified version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 for the Australian market "in the near future".

Samsung has committed to sending Apple three samples seven days before it puts them on sale. This effectively means that Apple has the power to tell its rivals what they can sell.

Intellectual property expert Florian Mueller said that unless the patents cited by Apple in this case were declared invalid by the court or Samsung won't be able to build a Galaxy Tab 10.1 that consumers want to buy. He said that the patents were so broad that they cover the basics of multi-touch gestures and functions like slide to unlock and list scrolling.

Mueller thinks that the fact that Samsung had agreed to hold back its launch of the Tab indicated it believes Apple's case has merit. He said that the patents would most likely prevent Samsung from providing capacitive multi-touch screens. If it provides any workaround then the product would be pants next to the iPad.

Mueller said that thanks to the US Patent System some technology can hardly be implemented without infringing on at least some of the relevant patents. The multi-touch user interface  is one such problem. It places Apple in a position of considerable power. It can further delay Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 launch by adding more patents to the list of potential infringements if it does not like its rival's modifications. It could also shut down all competition meaning that if punters want a tablet they would have to buy an Apple at what ever random price Jobs sets.

However it is not clear if a court would allow such a "broad monopoly" on multitouch. Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt accused Apple of responding to Android's success with lawsuits rather than innovation. He said that Apple lawsuits were just inspired by Google's success. Apple has a lot of cash in hand to try and push for a monopoly of tablet and smartphones.

Many think that Apple will try and force its competitors to pay it protection money as a way of avoiding being dragged before an anti-trust committee. But if the US patent system works the way it has in the past, if a court says that Jobs invented multi-touch then Apple does not have give licences to anyone.


Nick Farell

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