As I mentioned in my editorial on Monday, Apple’s legal maneuvers have more to do with hindering sales of competing products than with actually protecting its “innovations.” In this context, a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh dealt a serious blow to Apple’s efforts. Late Monday, Koh denied Apple's request to add the Galaxy S III to its request for a preliminary injunction against Samsung. In failing to add the Galaxy S III to its existing injunction request against other Samsung devices, Apple will now be unable to prevent the year's biggest blockbuster phone from launching in the U.S. on its scheduled date of June 21. By the time Apple files a new request for an injunction, the Galaxy S III will have already launched and gained a foothold in the U.S. market.
“I just don’t have the human bandwidth”
Koh’s comments last Friday underscore the primary reason for denying Apple’s request - granting it would place unreasonable demands on her courtroom schedule, which also includes Apple’s trial against other Samsung devices scheduled for July. It should be noted that the decision to deny Apple’s request for a quick decision against the Galaxy S III has nothing to do with the merits of the case. Ultimately, the court could still rule against Samsung and grant an injunction blocking sales of its devices in the United States. However, by that time, the Galaxy S III will have already shipped to early adopters (although Verizon’s version apparently won’t launch until July - it’s been a difficult week for Verizon customers).
Apple's strategy thwarted by recent court decisions
Apple was handed another legal setback in Chicago last week by U.S. District Court judge Richard Posner when he dismissed Apple’s case against Motorola. The decisions by Koh and Posner dealt a serious blow to Apple’s current strategy for protecting its market position. While Apple can appeal Posner’s decision and may yet win its case against Samsung, Apple has failed to gain quick judicial rulings that hinder or block sales of competing products for the time being.
With the launch of the iPhone 5 rumored for September, the Galaxy S III will have already gained a significant foothold in the U.S. market, and many customers who might have gotten the new iPhone will already be locked into 2-year contracts from having upgraded to Samsung’s new device. Additionally, Motorola will have launched the highly anticipated flagship Droid RAZR HD and the rumored Atrix 3. Apple is still fighting an uphill battle to block sales of present and upcoming HTC phones, including the One series and Verizon’s eagerly awaited Droid Incredible 4G LTE.
Since Android eclipsed iOS last year as the most widely-used smartphone platform, this year’s generation of Android superphones is a greater threat to Apple than last year’s generation. Furthermore, all of this year’s top models will have launched prior to the next iPhone (if September launch rumors hold true), meaning that Apple will have missed out on scores of potential customers. Even if it wins its remaining cases against Samsung, Motorola, and HTC, it may be too late for the iPhone 5 to be king of the hill.
Obviously, millions will still snap up the next iPhone as soon as it becomes available, and thousands will still camp out on the sidewalks in front of Apple stores and get their faces on the news, but by the end of this year, the iPhone may no longer be the ultimate status symbol for smartphone users.
Apple's Latest Litigation Litany Series
Round 1: Apple vs. HTC and Samsung
Round 2: The Android (vows to) Strike Back
Round 3: Return of the Moto (Update)
Round 4: Apple Tries to Block the Galaxy
Round 5: Apple and Samsung Agree to Disagree by June 12