Samsung has claimed that the way Android's multitouch software works is not as good as Apple's, in a bid to avoid a recall and ban on sales of its Android smartphones in a patent dispute with Apple in the Netherlands.
Apple said in the Court of the Hague on Friday that Samsung should be banned from selling Android Galaxy devices in the Netherlands because Samsung infringes on a multitouch patent called "touch event model". The patent describes technology that prevents smartphone users from pushing two buttons at the same time on the screen, such as the play and the delete button in a music application.
In addition to a sales ban, Apple wants the judge to order a recall of all Galaxy devices that run Android 2.3 and higher from Dutch distributors and resellers. A sales ban in the Netherlands could also have an E.U.-wide effect because Samsung's distribution center is located in the Netherlands.
Both iOS and Android devices can disable touch input in certain areas of the screen when an application developer deems it necessary to do so to avoid undesirable input. Apple developed a way to prevent unwanted touches by giving each "view," an element of the user interface, exclusivity. Android uses a similar system that is more hierarchical, and doesn't only apply to one "view," Samsung's lawyers said.
While Apple's technology is a "very nice invention," the technique used in Android differs from the iOS solution, argued Bas Berghuis van Woortman, one of Samsung's lawyers. Because the Android based method is more hierarchical the system is more complex and therefore harder for developers to use, he said.
In addition, Apple devices disallow touch input in sections of the screen on the OS level, while Android does that on the application level, he said. Both are reasons Samsung's Android devices do not infringe on the patent, he added.
Apple disagrees. "They suggest that they have a lesser solution, but that is simply not true," said Apple's lawyer Theo Blomme to judge Peter Blok, who presided over a team of three judges, in a response to Samsung's claim. The technique used in Android does solve a multiple input "conflict situation" and in that way the Android software essentially does the same as Apple's, he said.
It is also possible to assign exclusivity to one particular "view" in Android, and thus Samsung infringes on the patent, said Rutger Kleemans, Apple's other lawyer in the courtroom.
Both Samsung's and Apple's legal teams concentrated on how to interpret the specific wording in the patent document.
Samsung also claimed that Apple's touch event model patent is invalid because it is very similar to other technology and thus not a new invention. DiamondTouch, software that allows multiple users to interact with a touch-based tabletop interface simultaneously, is an example of so-called "prior art," said Samsung lawyer Mattie de Koning. DiamondTouch was developed in 2001 and is able to recognize which person touches the surface at a certain place and is also able to recognize whether one user uses two hands for multitouch input, De Koning said, adding that this is similar to Apple's patent. DiamondTouch was developed by Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs and later licensed to Circle Twelve.
Apple dismissed this claim by stating that DiamondTouch cannot be compared to its technology because it is meant for multiple users, and not just for one.
Another example of prior art, while being "a little bit exotic," are software synthesizers, said De Koning. Software synthesizers use input from a keyboard, which can be compared to a multitouch device, he said. The synthesizer software is able to switch between a monotone and a polyphone input, and in the monotone mode the software ignores certain keystrokes, which is similar to Apple's technology, and therefore it is not inventive, said De Koning.
Kleemans called the synthesizer angle a "creative find" but emphasized that the technology doesn't even use a touchscreen. "Any relevance is hard to find," he said.
The case is the second time Apple has made a claim against Samsung in the Netherlands using the touch event model patent. Apple was denied an injunction on Samsung's products in preliminary proceedings regarding the patent at the Court of the Hague last year. Apple has also issued claims for the same patent in court cases in Germany against Samsung and Motorola Mobility, and in the U.K. against HTC.
The German court will rule on Apple's claims against Samsung and Motorola for the multitouch patent on Sept. 21. The U.K court ruled that Samsung does not infringe Apple's patent.
Judge Blok said he would closely read the German verdict to judge whether it is relevant to the Dutch case. The Hague court will deliver its judgment Oct. 24, Blok said.
Samsung and Apple have also clashed in courts in the Netherlands over other patents, including design patents, and are currently engaged in legal cases in other areas of the world, including in the U.S. and South Korea. The two companies are also due in the Court of the Hague Sept. 28 on a claim brought by Apple regarding technology for scrolling through photo galleries.
Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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