Talking tech since 2003

At the end of 2013, there looked to be some hope for the ongoing courtroom feud between smartphone rivals Apple and Samsung. We’d gotten reports that the two companies were going to enter mediation to try and hammer out a licensing agreement before their next dalliance in court this coming March over mutual allegations of patent infringement. And a post on TechCrunch today shows that if they haven’t worked something out yet, it’s in Samsung’s best interests to do so ASAP, as Judge Lucy Koh has ruled against in favor of Apple regarding a patent for autocomplete keyboards on smartphones.

According to the post, Judge Koh ruled that Samsung’s autocomplete keyboard infringes on Apple’s own version of the function—specifically that showing both the word that the user has typed and the suggested word simultaneously falls under Apple’s patent. Samsung, therefore, needs to prove that the patent itself is invalid during the March-scheduled court date.

Interestingly, my Nexus 5—a phone made by LG, and powered by the stock Android OS—definitely shows both what I’ve typed and a suggested word, meaning that under this ruling, it too violates Apple’s patent. As such, it’s worth it to all of Apple’s competitors for Samsung to prevail in court if it comes to that, lest they be hit with lawyer’s letters and hit up for cash to avoid a lawsuit. That said, it stands to reason that Samsung will likely look to avoid further courtroom fighting at all costs, and will keep trying to work out a licensing deal with Apple. And this latest ruling definitely gives Samsung a weaker position in whatever negotiations are going on.

I guess what surprises me is that Apple even had a patent for autocomplete. But, thinking back to when I first got to play with an iPhone years ago, I do remember actually feeling amazed at experiencing autocomplete for the first time. “It knows what I’m trying to say!” I thought to myself. I also thought that was mostly a function of the fact that typing on the iPhone was the WORST. Little did I know how ubiquitous touchscreen typing would become, and how much better people would get at it. In the end, yeah, I suppose Apple did do it first—and because of that, the company deserves to enforce its patent. Let’s just hope that enforcing that patent doesn’t make it harder for folks to enjoy phones made by other companies.

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