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Samsung 'VoiceOver' suit stayed, waiting on patent ruling

updated 08:28 pm EST, Sat February 23, 2013

Parallel case could nullify Samsung patent at heart of dispute

Among the many other battles Samsung and Apple are fighting in various courts around the world, a particular case in Germany involves Samsung suing Apple, claiming that the latter's "VoiceOver" feature violates some Samsung patents. The case, being tried in Mannheim, has been put on hold as Apple has challenged the validity of the patents as a whole, which experts believe has a good chance of being successful. The judge in the case said that a possible nullification of the one remaining patent being asserted could render the current case moot.

Originally, Samsung had claimed that the whole of VoiceOver was a violation of its patents, but after it was pointed out that reading on-screen text existing long before Samsung patented the idea, it narrowed its claims to avoid having the entire set of patents tossed out, reports patent case observer Florian Mueller. Currently, the company says that Apple's VoiceOver feature infringes on one particular patent, regarding the ability for a voice to read out the names or statuses of icons on the screen. The judge in the case, Andreas Voss, has already expressed doubt that Samsung's reconstructed claims will survive if the original patents are nullified, AppleInsider reports.

Should Samsung succeed, however, the claim it is making could have the effect of denying the VoiceOver service to disabled users of the iPhone. Visually-impaired users such as musician Stevie Wonder have frequently noted that Apple's VoiceOver implementation works well for them and is a major selling point of the iPhone and other iOS devices for disabled users. With VoiceOver on, a black rectangle appears around icons, and users tap them once to hear a description to ensure they have chosen the correct icon before double-tapping the button to activate the selected app.

A victory for either party in the Samsung lawsuit is likely to have ramifications throughout Europe, as EU member countries' court decisions are generally respected in other member countries' courts. Should the patent authorities in Germany nullify the Samsung patents, Apple could use the ruling to prevent Samsung from challenging VoiceOver in other countries, even the US.

A Samsung spokesperson told AllThingsD that the company "continues to believe that Apple has infringed our patented mobile technologies, and we will continue to take the measures necessary to protect our intellectual property rights." Despite numerous court battles, Samsung has yet to prevail in charges of Apple infringing its patents in any court other than one ruling in Samsung's home country of South Korea -- and in that ruling Samsung as found to also be infringing on Apple's patents more or less equally.

The Mannheim case will now be stayed until a clear ruling on the patent's nullification has been issued.




By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. And.reg

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-22-04

    How about Apple win this ruling and then not have to post that stupid ruling on their own website, about Samsung allegedly not infringing on some other patents?
    Samsung = not buying. Apple = ditch Samsung hardware and prepare to go it on your own.

  1. MatthewHowell

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-13

    Just wondering...

    If Samsung were to win, and Apple is forced to remove VoiceOver, how would this play out in relation to the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Originally Posted by MatthewHowellView Post

    If Samsung were to win, and Apple is forced to remove VoiceOver, how would this play out in relation to the Americans with Disabilities Act?



    Without being a lawyer, I'll attempt a reasonable guess.

    Even if Samsung were to prevail, it is unlikely in the extreme that a judge would order Apple to remove even the one small part of VoiceOver that is still being contested (reading aloud icon names or icon badge numbers). Were Apple to lose the case, they would first appeal the ruling. But assuming Samsung ultimately prevailed, Apple would have to come up with a new way of accomplishing the same goal, or license the patent from Samsung.

    I should add that the odds of this ultimately happening are about the same as you getting struck by lightning WHILE winning the lottery. While I don't always put my faith in what Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents has to say, he's correct that Samsung is -- as usual when the challenge Apple -- on pretty shaky ground. They've already lost most of the case, have one slim patent remaining, and an openly skeptical judge.

    In just my speculative opinion, of course.

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    This shouldn't even be on the table

    My Dad suffered from crippling arthritis. Through Medicare, MediGap and a Doctors prescription I was able to procure him a "Hoveround" electric chair. After my Dad passed I donated his Hoveround Chair to a local Nursing Home. I understand wishing to protect one's patents. But from my point of view, Samsung challenging this patent and potentially depriving people less fortunate than most, seems cruel and heartless. This shouldn't even be on the table...

  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 11-03-09

    Originally Posted by apostleView Post

    My Dad suffered from crippling arthritis. Through Medicare, MediGap and a Doctors prescription I was able to procure him a "Hoveround" electric chair. After my Dad passed I donated his Hoveround Chair to a local Nursing Home. I understand wishing to protect one's patents. But from my point of view, Samsung challenging this patent and potentially depriving people less fortunate than most, seems cruel and heartless. This shouldn't even be on the table...



    Sorry to learn about your father, but do you think Apple would give a flying f*&# about depriving anyone of any life saving features if someone violated their precious patent(s)?

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by wrenchyView Post

    Sorry to learn about your father, but do you think Apple would give a flying f*&# about depriving anyone of any life saving features if someone violated their precious patent(s)?



    Get back to us when you see any evidence of that outside of your own imagination.

    As it currently stands, Apple's software (both its Macs and its iOS) is out of the box second to none in supporting people with disabilities.

    This doesn't contradict what you're claiming, but there's no contradicting imagined points.

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