Apple v. Samsung puts design patents on display

It’s high noon in the smartphone litigation world, as Apple v. Samsung jury selection began this week. Lest readers think this is much ado about nothing, US District Judge Lucy Koh said Apple "has shown a likelihood of establishing both infringement and validity" and has granted a temporary injunction against importation of the allegedly offending products until the case is decided.

Striking is the nature of the patents in suit: Apple is presenting design patents as infringed; Samsung is countering with allegedly infringed functional patents. The litigation begs the question, what is the nature of Apple innovation? A review of a new, wonderfully productive IP intelligence database, IPAnalytx (email for more information), reveals Apple’s top inventors are design folks and Apple’s patents are design heavy... decidedly so.

Indeed, there are functional patents Apple feels have been infringed as well (three), but these really aren’t the stars of the show. Perhaps one way to look at this is that Apple is really a marketing behemoth, and that this suit is more to protect market share gained through appeal than through functional invention. It’s an interesting showdown, one worth watching, especially for analysts appraising design patents.