Apple-Samsung case far from over, but won't delay next iPhone, analysts say

Despite Friday's verdict for Apple, motions and appeals could stretch out the litigation for a year or more

The legal battle between Apple and Samsung Electronics may continue for another year or more despite a jury verdict on Friday that appeared to hand the iPhone maker a solid win. But the wrangling isn't likely to delay Apple's next big product.

Apple's suit, which says Samsung stole software features and hardware and interface designs from iPhone and iPad models in its Android-based tablets and smartphones, took more than a year to reach a jury after it was filed in April 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. But even after the jury finished its work last week with an approximately US$1 billion patent-infringement verdict against Samsung, the case was not yet cut and dried.

On Tuesday, Samsung pushed for faster resolution of one aspect of the case, asking the court to move quickly to lift an injunction against its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet that was imposed before the jury trial began. Amid its findings of infringement against many Samsung products, the jury found that the Galaxy Tab didn't violate any Apple patents. After the verdict, Samsung swiftly called for an end to that injunction.

Meanwhile, analysts say Apple probably won't push back its expected iPhone 5 launch to wait until the legal shouting dies down. Things may not be so rosy for the company's rivals, though.

"Launch dates on products for this holiday season are locked down due to the two to five months of network testing that U.S. carriers require," said Avi Greengart of Current Analysis, via email. "However, the verdict could certainly affect the design and user interface features of future products, and I would expect some of that work will start even if the appeals process drags out."

Samsung may face challenges if it has been developing future products using some features that the company was found to infringe, said Roger Kay of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

"I expect that this will cause Samsung to scramble with its product portfolio," Kay said.

"This saps Samsung's momentum," he added. "If they had all this micro-timed stuff that's supposed to come to market, [they may have to] pass it back to all the product teams."

The impact of the verdict could spread well beyond Samsung. "I'd expect more than a few vendors carefully going over their designs to make sure they aren't going down the same path Samsung did," Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg said.

Meanwhile, Apple may be able to push the legal drama out of the headlines just by announcing its next big product, Kay said.

"Apple, more than any other company, has a kind of Zen-like poise and its own internal calendar," Kay said.

There are several other issues left for District Court Judge Lucy Koh to decide, including motions by Apple to block the sale of eight Samsung smartphones, and when those are resolved the South Korean vendor is expected to appeal the whole verdict at a higher court. All this might take until next December, though it's impossible to know until the courts decide, observers say.

At the district court, Koh will probably face several post-trial motions that argue the jury made mistakes that need to be corrected, observers said. They are likely to include one by Apple that would ask her to essentially overrule the jury's verdict on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, said Christopher Carani, a design patent attorney at McAndrews, Held & Malloy in Chicago. Such so-called "directed verdicts" are rarely granted and in this case would require a finding that there is no other reasonable conclusion, but it could happen, Carani said.

Koh will also need to rule on Apple's request on Monday for preliminary and permanent injunctions against eight Samsung smartphones. Samsung has already vowed to fight those injunctions, which would block the sale of the products in the U.S. And she will need to decide whether the damages that the jury called for should be doubled or tripled as an extra penalty for willful infringement. The jury found that Samsung deliberately violated Apple's patents.

The judge has scheduled a hearing on Sept. 20, where the two sides will argue over removing the current injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1. But Apple's request for the eight new injunctions isn't due to be heard until Dec. 6.

Once she has heard arguments on the remaining issues, Koh will probably try to rule promptly, Carani said. As the case has progressed, Koh has been dealing with motions more quickly, he said.

But it's almost certain that Samsung will appeal Friday's verdict in the next higher court, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Carani and others said. It can't do so until the case is resolved in the district court, and then will have 60 days to do so. The appeal could take nine to 12 months or longer, Carani said.

The lengthy litigation is nothing out of the ordinary, said Roy Futterman, a jury consultant at Doar Litigation Consulting. Despite the attention being paid to errors by the jury, of which some were resolved on Friday and others are claimed by the two companies, the Apple-Samsung case is typical, Futterman said. "This is really standard stuff, so far," he said.

It's hard to predict how long a given case will go on, because so much is up to the judges, Futterman said. Apple's motions for injunctions alone could involve a lengthy process, he said.

"That can really go on for quite some time. There's really no good answer," Futterman said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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