What are the implications of Apple’s successful patent litigation for Android?

Finally the mobile telephony wrangle over the iPhone/Smartphone patent has been resolved in favour of Apple. Naturally Samsung intends to contest the jury’s verdict, and will launch an appeal immediately. Google’s take on the legal issue, however, is interesting.  Google has said that it does not want the ruling in the Apple-Samsung patent lawsuit to be a catalyst which will “limit” consumers’ access to Android devices in the future. Google’s comments come after a US jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple over $1billion (£664m) last Friday after ruling it had infringed several of the iPhone maker’s software and design innovations.

There has been wide speculation that the news which wasn’t altogether unexpected might encourage handset makers to install the rival Windows Phone system. However, Google is confident that this will not be the case. In a statement issued last Friday the search giant stated:

“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 continue to work with our partners to give consumers innovative and affordable products, and we don’t want anything to limit that.”

Apple has indicated that it will seek sales bans on eight of the phones at the heart of the lawsuit at a hearing on 20 September: the models include the Galaxy S 4G, Galaxy S2 AT&T model, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S2 T-Mobile model, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G, Galaxy S Showcase, Droid Charge and Galaxy Prevail. However, the list will not include Samsung’s current flagship handset, the Galaxy S3, which was not involved in the original case. Never the less industry experts believe that Apple is intent on turning the screw following the success of the patent litigation, and may now also try to use the verdict to halt sales of other Android-based models it believes infringe its patents. Apple continues to be involved in lawsuits against two other Android-handset makers: Motorola – which is owned by Google – and HTC.

The same experts believe that this could work to rival Microsoft’s advantage. In the patents court case Apple revealed it had licensed some of its technologies to Microsoft. Its lawyers also showed pictures of Nokia’s Lumia – which runs Windows Phone 7 – as an example of a handset that looked distinctive from its own.

One analyst said that the US ruling presented Microsoft with an opportunity to convince others to put their weight behind the next version of its mobile system. Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the tech consultancy Enderle Group, told the BBC:

“I think this will force a reset on Android products as they are re-engineered to get around Apple’s patents. [It should also] provide a stronger opportunity for both of Microsoft’s new platforms – Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – because they come with indemnification against Apple, suddenly making them far safer.”

Dell, HTC, Samsung, LG and ZTE have already created Windows Phone 7 devices, but only Nokia has concentrated its efforts on the system. It is believed other manufacturers will weigh up the strength of Android’s popularity before making a move.

According to data released by analysts at IDC, Android accounted for 68.1 percent of the global smartphone market between April and June: Apple’s iOS accounted for 16.9 percent and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile 5.4 percent. The data was based on shipments rather than sales.

It is believed that if Apple’s patents are upheld in any Samsung appeal, Google might be forced to recode Android to ensure there was no potential infringement: alternatively handset makers could seek to pay their rival a licence fee. The other alternative is that Apple could ultimately seek a patent cross-licensing deal with Google despite its late chief executive Steve Jobs’ vow to “destroy Android”. This latent hostility dates back to when Google filed its first lawsuit against Apple after taking over Motorola. It alleged seven patent infringements, one of which involves the technology used in the iPhone’s Siri voice-activated search tool. Were Google to succeed it could call for an import ban on Apple’s iOS products, potentially forcing its rival into a deal.

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