One down, dozens to go.
That's the feeling that much of Silicon Valley woke up to on Monday morning following Apple's (AAPL) blockbuster victory in its patent trial against Samsung on Friday, a case that resulted in more than $1 billion in penalties for the South Korean company after a jury found that it violated six patents related to Apple's mobile phone technologies.Following the ruling, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the result sent a "loud and clear message that stealing isn't right." In an email to staff he added:
"We chose legal action very reluctantly and only after repeatedly asking Samsung to stop copying our work. For us this lawsuit has always been about something much more important than patents or money. It's about values. We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on Earth."
So, now that Apple has a solid win under its belt, which companies are among its next likely targets? Two hints for the first one: its name starts with "G" and it rhymes with "doodle."
"I think the real battle is not between Apple and Samsung but between Apple and Google (GOOG) and it involves the Android operating system principally," Dixon Doll, co-founder of venture capital firm DCM, told Bloomberg TV on Monday night. "I would expect that Google is gong to get very actively involved in defending their ecosystem partners like Samsung. I think Google's going to be very sensitive to reworking and tweaking their upcoming releases to make sure they are compliant, and I would expect Google to eventually go on offense here."
Gene Munster, a senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray, agreed, telling Bloomberg TV that he expects to see Google counter punch in the near future. "They closed the Motorola acquisition in July and part of that was for their 12,000 patents, so their attorneys are just getting their arms around those. I wouldn't be surprised it they used that patent portfolio to try and get back at Apple here. This isn't going to end anytime soon."
Apple and Amazon (AMZN) have been drifting toward legal action ever since the iPhone maker launched its iTunes music store in 2003, but Amazon's recent push into the smartphone and tablet market (starting with the Kindle Fire) is what really has Apple fuming.
Beyond the hardware, however, the companies are involved in several strikingly similar e-commerce businesses. As mentioned in the Business Insider post linked above, Apple and Amazon both now sell music, movies, e-books and tablets. Seems like a lawsuit just waiting to happen.
And Colin Gillis with BCG Financial expects it to come sooner rather than later.
"When Amazon does its big event in September, is it going to be a phone?," he said of the scheduled product launch on Sept. 6 in an interview with UPI. "Because if it's a phone, they're going to be sued, probably on Sept. 7. No joke."
The Apple-Samsung verdict was generally seen as a win for Microsoft (MSFT), as its Windows phone is now positioned to take away market share from the reeling Android players. But can it capitalize on the opportunity?
"Microsoft has been the beneficiary of this whole fight as the other non-Android option," Ron Laurie, a Silicon Valley-based IP specialist, told The Huffington Post. "But safety (from lawsuits) by itself is not enough. You have to appeal to consumers."
And, as a hardware and software vendor, if Microsoft isn't careful with its growing mobile business it could find itself in Apple's patent crosshairs down the road as well.
Other Mobile Device Makers
Samsung is far from the only Android hardware maker in the marketplace, but to date it is the only one to be sued by Apple on trade dress grounds. Apple currently has lawsuits pending against Motorola and HTC, but those cases deal more with software and user interfaces and are based around functionally different issues. Will Apple go after more hardware makers on design grounds? There's no way to tell, but for now every Android handset maker is officially on notice.
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