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article imageU.S. judge bans sale of Samsung phones in meaningless patent case

By James Walker     Jan 19, 2016 in Technology
Apple has won a victory in its patent dispute with Samsung as a U.S. court has ruled Samsung should be banned from selling its smartphones in the country. The case is meaningless though because the phones are all years old and the patents almost invalid.
As The Verge reports, the ruling is the latest in a long line of court cases and appeals directed at each other by rivals Apple and Samsung. The dispute centres around Samsung's implementation of software features allegedly protected by Apple patents. These include novel user interface elements such as sliding a control to unlock the display and the use of rounded icons throughout its customised Android skin.
On Monday, Judge Lucy Koh of the federal court in California ruled that the features infringe on three patents owned by Apple. Koh agreed to ban the sale of select Android-powered Samsung devices in the United States, adding to the list of damages Samsung has had to pay Apple. It has previously been ordered to hand over $548 million for infringing on Apple's "pinch-to-zoom" patent.
Unfortunately for Apple, the ruling will actually have very little impact on Samsung's customers. The sales ban covers the Samsung Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S II, Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Galaxy S III and Stratosphere, all smartphones long-since rendered obsolete by the fast progression of modern technology.
The devices are all at least three years old, making it highly unlikely that anyone would actually want to buy one today. Some, such as the Galaxy Nexus, are over five years old and virtually impossible to buy new.
Samsung was quick to respond to yesterday's announcement. In an official statement, it described the news as "disappointing" but stressed that its customers, users and fans will not be affected. It said: "We would like to reassure our millions of loyal customers that all of our flagship smartphones, which are used and loved by American consumers, will remain for sale and available for customer service support in the U.S."
The company branded the case as an example of Apple "abusing the judicial system" and creating a bad legal precedent that could set the stage for similar patent disputes in the future. To a consumer, interface "features" like pinch-to-zoom and slide-to-unlock are now viewed as universal controls employed by several different platforms to build intuitive apps and services.
Samsung intends to pitch this point to the U.S. Supreme Court. It has asked for a review of the system used to grant new design patents and award damages when they are infringed.
The company argues that it is having to give up all its profits and suspend sales of its infringing devices even though the case is based around a comparatively inconsequential element of the entire product.
Samsung isn't alone in thinking patent damages should be awarded based on how much of an impact they make on the entire product. In July 2015, other Silicon Valley firms including Google, Facebook, Dell and HP united to defend Samsung against Apple, demonstrating that this kind of patent dispute damages the industry.
The sales ban on Samsung's archaic smartphones will come into effect in 30 days but will never get a chance to be enforced. FOSS Patents explains that the most important patent expires at the beginning of February so the ban will be void as soon as it comes into action. The other patents concerned have already been classed as irrelevant and invalid, in part because the patent covering the slide-to-unlock functionality only covers certain graphical elements of Apple's interface, rather than the actual system itself.
More about Apple, Samsung, Patent, patent dispute, Android
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