This is the first in our planned series of upcoming guest posts to help answer common questions for startups. Thanks to Joe & the Team at Wrays, I am very happy to share the first article today on the US Apple v Samsung patent infringement verdict – and what does it mean for Android and Windows 8 developers?
Last Friday, US time, a jury in a San Jose, California courtroom awarded Apple damages of close to US$1.05 billion, finding that Samsung had infringed a series of patents owned by Apple. The patents related to various aspects of the iPhone/iPad interface, including the "pinch and zoom" functionality and the "bounceback" functionality. Given what's at stake in this battle, it's highly likely that Samsung will appeal the decision, resulting in years of further litigation. In the meantime, the decision should make all developers think carefully about the features they are incorporating into their apps. In the short term, Apple is too focussed on Samsung to worry about the smaller players in the marketplace. However, if Apple wins the appeal, it's highly likely that they will turn their attention to other phone and tablet manufacturers. Eventually, this attention may drill down to app developers, particularly those who develop across a number of platforms. Even if Apple does not directly target app developers, if smartphone and tablet manufacturers are required to make fundamental changes to their operating systems, this may in turn require developers to change the way their apps operate, resulting in extra cost and the potential for lost sales. The trick in these situations is to be alert but not alarmed - apologies to Australians who may groan at the sight of this cliché! The Apple and Samsung lawsuit will continue to play out across a number of courtrooms in a number of countries for (possibly) many years to come. It's unclear how this decision will play out over the longer term, as uncertainty will remain until the appeal is heard and decided. So there is no need to suddenly abandon development or turn everything in your start-up upside down. It would be smart, however, to think about how (and how quickly) you can re-engineer your apps to avoid using the inventions owned by Apple, should the need arise. As with any start-up, you should be prepared to pivot depending on how the business and technical climate changes. As patents become more important in the smartphone and tablet industries, you will also need to be more aware of legal issues around patents. If you require any advice, please feel free to contact Joe Seisdedos at Wrays (firstname.lastname@example.org).