Apple is more than a little concerned about Google impressive ensemble of OEM partners who together have greatly outpaced it in market share. Apple attorney Josh Krevitt bemoaned his company's lot, remarking, "Samsung is always one step ahead, launching another product and another product."
Apple isn't launching product as fast as it used to. Since the departure of founder and visionary Steven P. Jobs, it saw its iPhone 4S launch slip to October 2011. Now hopes that Apple would "catch up" with a July launch are all but lost. To make matters worse, Apple's homely iOS 6 was left "playing RIM" to a the slick, stylish Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, unveiled at last week's Google I/O developers event. Word has it that Jelly Bean's built in search even beats Siri in accuracy -- and Google supports many features absent in iOS, such as offline dictation.
I. Tablet Ban Sticks
Increasingly unable to compete with those pesky "one step ahead" Android phonemakers, Apple has turned to an all out quest to kill its competitors in court. That quest has yielded some major failures -- such as its recently dismissed case against Motorola Mobility, a Google subsidiary.
It has also yielded some major triumphs, including a temporary import ban HTC handsets, as well as recent bans on Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and Galaxy Nexus smartphone.
The latter ban on the Samsung tablet stuck today after Judge Lucy Koh in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose/San Francisco) dismissed Samsung's request for a stay on the grounds that the ban would reduce competition in the consumer market.
Judge Koh's decision, which was based on her opinion that Samsung infringed on Apple's 2004 claim to the "invention" of a rectangular computing slab -- U.S. Design Patent D504,889 -- will likely be now appealed to a circuit court of appeals.
In a statement to Reuters Samsung writes, "Samsung is disappointed with the court's decision that denied our motion to stay. We believe today's ruling will ultimately reduce the availability of superior technological features to consumers in the United States."
The victory is more of a moral win for Apple, rather than a fiscal one, given the Galaxy Tab 10.1's disappointing sales. Comments Lee Sun-tae, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities, "The impact on Samsung is limited as shipment volume of Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Nexus are quite small. Even if Apple wins an injunction request on Galaxy S III, Samsung will have plenty of time to get around it, as it normally takes quite a long time for a court to process such requests."
The more critical appeal will be the appeal of the Galaxy Nexus ban, given that the Nexus LTE is one of Samsung's top sellers in the U.S.
II. HTC Outwits Apple in Third ITC Complaint
The old adage "you win some, you lose some" could be applied to Apple's litigious efforts, though. In a second lawsuit, the company suffered a defeat when the U.S. International Trade Commission refused to enact a second "emergency" ban on the HTC flagship models -- including the One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE. Those models were recently released from a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seizure after Google updated Android to work around Apple's U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, which claims the invention of "data tapping" -- converting phone numbers and other items to hyperlinks that bring up menus.
After the ban was lifted, Apple immediately filed a third ITC complaint, but this time claiming the Google work around was still in infringement of its broad interpretation of the data tapping patent's scope.
But Apple's pleas fell on deaf ears, with the U.S. ITC writing [source], "The commission finds that Apple has not demonstrated the propriety of temporary emergency action here. The commission will not direct Customs to detain all subject HTC products because the commission does not have the information necessary to determine whether the respondents are currently violating the commission’s limited exclusion order."
Thus Asia's second largest phonemaker is free continue sales, although the U.S. ITC promised to investigate Apple's fresh complaint with due diligence.
Left yet again playing Wile E Coyote to HTC's roadrunner, Apple is surely more than a little frustrated. After all, by the time the ITC decides on whether the workaround is sufficient, HTC will likely have moved along to new devices and new software.
Thus Apple, who looks suprisingly sluggish of late, is left struggling to hit a moving target. As it lawyer says, the Androids are always "one step ahead.