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Apple claims Samsung stole universal search from the iPhone, seeks ban

apple vs google samsung galaxy nexus

The big Samsung vs. Apple trial is only part of the patent infringement war between the two companies. Bloomberg has reported on the progress of another case involving the two leading smartphone manufacturers, which concerns an Apple patent on unified search. Apple wants to secure a ban on the Galaxy Nexus being sold in the United States. Samsung, naturally, disagrees, arguing that it shouldn’t be banned. The trial isn’t scheduled to start until March 2014 so the importance of deciding on a ban now is clear.

Samsung has already started removing the unified search feature from some of its products, including the Galaxy S3, although it’s far from clear whether Apple can really prove the validity of this patent. How can Apple lay claim to the idea that you can search multiple sources, such as the Internet and contacts simultaneously, on a phone? Even if it can, should a smartphone be banned from sale because of one small feature?

Apple argues loss of sales

Apple’s lawyer Perry spoke against the Nexus, contending that it was Samsung’s big attempt to take down the iPhone. “This was the top of the line, Cadillac phone they trotted out to compete with the iPhone.”

He went on to suggest that anyone choosing the Galaxy Nexus over the iPhone could be lost to Apple as a customer because people tend to stick with the same operating system on their next phone. He also spoke about the loss of Apple revenue for things such as applications and accessories.

Samsung argues “minuscule” sales

Samsung lawyer, John Quinn, argues that the idea that the Galaxy Nexus has put a dent in iPhone sales is ridiculous. He said, “This is a product that, at most, captured 0.5 percent of the market.”

With sales of $250 million from its first two quarters on the market, the Galaxy Nexus is hardly an iPhone beater. That compares to sales of $16.2 billion for the iPhone over the same period.

Google reportedly weighed in by saying the patent relates, “at best, to a very minor aspect of the Galaxy Nexus phone’s overall functionality which was never shown to drive sales.”

Sprint also got in on the act, calling itself an “unwitting victim” and pointing out that the ban would harm its reputation.

Central argument is hard to swallow

Apple is essentially saying that Samsung copied the unified search feature, which is apparently what makes Siri so compelling. Can it prove that it lost market share to the Galaxy Nexus, or that the unified search feature stimulated sales of the iPhone or the Galaxy Nexus? It seems unlikely, but then again, it seems unlikely that a company could be granted a patent for this in the first place.

As Google went on to point out, smartphones are packed with features, and if patent owners block sales of devices based on single features then “the design and manufacture of similarly complex technological marvels would become economically infeasible.”

But Google may not be listening to its own advice. Google’s Motorola filed a new patent lawsuit against Apple to block imports of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac computers into the U.S. — a signal that the gloves are coming off. It looks like Google vs. Apple is kicking off; even before the Samsung trial is settled.

There’s no end to this patent madness in sight and, as we discussed before, it’s consumers who will end up paying for it, one way or another.