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ABA panel tackles ‘patent trial of the century’

ABA panel tackles ‘patent trial of the century’

By Gabriel McIntosh

Design patents took center stage at a program during the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco. “The War of Roses: Apple v. Samsung — Implications for Innovation and Intellectual Property Law” took place on Aug. 8 at the Moscone Center West.

The dispute between Apple and Samsung involves the “symbols of our time — devices such as smartphones and tablets,” said Christopher V. Carani in Landslide, a publication of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law. Carani was one of several panelists during the program.

“The case’s grip was felt not only in legal circles, but also in the mainstream press and media,” he said. “The Wall Street Journal touted the case as ‘The Patent Trial of the Century.’ Even the evening talk show circuit chimed in … putting on skits that riffed on the case. Never has a patent infringement case, let alone one centered on design patents, received so much attention.”

Carani offered brief background on the case: In April 2011, Apple filed its lawsuit against Samsung in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose. Apple’s complaint alleged that Samsung infringed eight utility patents, seven design patents and six trade dress rights. A $1.05 billion verdict was found in favor of Apple, which, if sustained, will represent the largest patent infringement jury award of all time.

Meanwhile, the two companies continue to battle, Carani said. The “war” has now spread to 50 separate suits in 10 countries, including Korea, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherland, Italy and elsewhere.

Both Apple and Samsung are tough competitors, said panelist Morgan Chu, a partner with Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles and chair of its Litigation Group. Their incentives to one-up each other in innovation and intellectual property will continue to expand.

The result will be a deeper, broader recognition of the importance of intellectual property, Chu said. In fact, Apple v. Samsung is “a powerful reminder that design protection is an important part of IP protection,” he said.

The “war,” however, will not hamper innovation, said Renee DuBord Brown, senior vice president of litigation at Tessera. There will still be a bunch of players introducing smartphones “because there’s so much money there.”

Carani estimated that it’s a $300-billion market.

When discussing the implications of the case, Chu said that companies need to “think more deeply about design, and lawyers need to think more deeply about intellectual property.”

He added that there will likely be an uptick in the amount of design patents, especially with the introduction of wearable computer products.

The panel was sponsored by the ABA’s Section of Litigation and included retired judge James S. Ware, who is now with JAMS, an alternative dispute resolution provider. It was moderated by Joan Archer of Armstrong Teasdale.

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