Federal jury rules Samsung violated Apple's copyright on smartphones

Apple’s $1.05 billion legal win against Samsung over the design of its mobile devices roiled the tech biz Friday while raising questions about whether it would affect how Hollywood distributes its content across new platforms.

The latest smartphones and tablets are clearly revolutionizing the way consumers access entertainment. But for studios, the court battle between the top two cellphone manufacturers signals that while the look of the devices consumers utilize in the future may change, the entertainment they access won’t.

The worst-case scenario so far will be fewer gadgets on the market with screens on which purchased or rented movies and TV shows can play. Whether Samsung will have to withdraw its devices from retailers will be revealed Sept. 20, when Apple will ask the court to pull certain smartphones and tablets that a jury found infringed on its patents.

Apple’s lawsuit focused mostly on older Samsung models like the Galaxy S and SII, the Captivate, Galaxy Tab and Vibrant, which are due for design overhauls. The Galaxy SIII is already on the market and proving to be one of the company’s bestsellers.

Should Samsung have to replace those phones, however, there isn’t likely to be much of a delay. Samsung, like most cellphone makers, has new models constantly in development and ready to replace aging devices to keep customers used to new feature-filled upgrades.

And that could benefit Hollywood in the long run as more powerful hardware gets into the hands of consumers that boast bigger and more high-definition screens. Samsung and other hardware makers will now be forced to become more innovative as a way to differentiate their devices from Apple’s products.

Apple’s key objections were the rounded corners of Samsung’s rectangular slab-formed cellphones, arguing this design element too closely echoed the iPhone and iPad, and software that includes a “rubber band” effect seen when scrolling down a screen, dragging documents, and a pinch-and-zoom and twist-to-rotate function on pictures and websites that’s become increasingly common.

A jury in a San Jose, Calif., district court agreed, saying that Samsung willfully copied the design and technology elements. Samsung had argued that the exterior of its phones resemble forms found in nature.

With Samsung’s phones operating on Android software, Apple’s win was a blow to Google as well.

Google has freely given its Android software to hardware manufacturers as it looks to compete with Microsoft and Apple on devices. But the company will now have to redesign software or risk having to pay Apple a licensing fee in the future to use patented technology. Microsoft has its own aggressive patent business, which comes with its own hefty licensing fees for hardware makers.

Samsung has patents to its own features that run on Android like the ability to beam files such as photos and videos to other Samsung handsets. Friday’s verdict comes as Apple and Samsung dominate with 55% of smartphones sales during the second quarter, according to NPD Group. Apple was No. 1 with 31%, while Samsung followed at 24%. HTC (15%), Motorola (12%) and LG (6%) rounded out the top five.

Apple is eager to lock down patents as the mobile biz is expected to top a record $206 billion in the U.S. this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Assn.

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