Apple and Samsung Electronics told a judge they’d resolved the first filed, but last remaining, legal disputes over their smartphones that once spanned four continents.
The biggest patent battle of the modern technology world has finally come to an end after seven years.
Apple and Samsung Electronics told a judge Wednesday they’d resolved the first filed, but last remaining, legal disputes that once spanned four continents. The string of lawsuits started in 2011 after Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder who died that year, threatened to go “thermonuclear” on rivals that used the Android operating system. The companies didn’t disclose the terms of the accord.
While the overall Smartphone Wars included every major maker of mobile devices, the fight between Apple and Samsung was the most intense. Apple accused Samsung of “slavishly” copying the iPhone design, while a Samsung lawyer once called Apple a “jihadist.” The ensuing litigation cost each company hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees, and tested their reputations as innovators.
“The sumo wrestlers have tired of the wrestling match,” said Paul Berghoff, a patent lawyer with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago who followed the cases over the years. “They both were tired and happy to stop paying the outside lawyers. We may never know who blinked first, who made the call.”
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For Apple, the Samsung case had become a distraction over “ancient history,” Berghoff said. The iPhone maker, meanwhile, is embroiled in a multibillion-dollar legal battle over patent royalties to be paid to mobile-chip designer Qualcomm, a fight that’s swept in regulators including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Apple’s contract manufacturers.
By many accounts, the iPhone revolutionized the market for smartphones when it was introduced in 2007 by Jobs, who described the device as “magic” and warned, “boy, have we patented it.”
Samsung, which was already on the market, had to adapt quickly as consumers snapped up the sleek iPhone, with its ease of use and design awards. These days, Samsung taunts Apple in commercials featuring people opening new boxes of Galaxy smartphones while a singer croons “I’m leaving you,” an obvious reference to the iPhone.
The technology landscape has shifted significantly since the dispute began. Apple has expanded its iPhone lineup to include more expensive as well as cheaper models. It’s also revamped the phone’s interface with new icons, colors and gestures. Samsung has added new models with curved screens and iris scanners that Apple has eschewed.
The two companies remain far ahead of the competition globally in phone sales, but Chinese phone makers such as Huawei Technologies and Oppo have begun to eat into Samsung’s market share while Apple’s has remained fairly steady.
In the first quarter this year, Apple held 16 percent of the smartphone market, while Samsung accounted for 23 percent, according to data from IDC. That compares with 30 percent for Samsung and 19 percent for Apple in 2012, the year of the original trial.
While the rulings in the case were never significant to either company’s bottom line, Apple has long maintained there was a bigger principle at stake.
Apple said after a May victory that the case “has always been about more than money” and “it is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple.”
A Samsung spokeswoman declined to comment on the settlement and Apple didn’t respond to a request for comment.