THE Apple vs Samsung lawsuit, probably is the most high-profile case in the consumer electronics industry, wound up with a jury ordering Samsung to pay Apple US$1.05 billion, the biggest sum so far awarded in an intellectual property case. The global smartphone industry will be influenced for a long time to come by the verdict, especially Chinese smartphone makers who lack patents and innovation. It’s a clear warning signal for all Chinese phone makers. Patents are an ‘empty space’ for most domestic phone makers in China, and that poses a huge potential risk …
Google’s Android OS now has 70 percent of the smartphone market. Most brands, except Apple and Nokia, are highly dependent on the mobile operating system, and they probably will have to adapt the functions after the Apple-Samsung verdict. That will push the research cost of an Android smartphone higher, placing more pressure on Chinese smartphone makers, who are relatively small players compared with the likes of Samsung. For software, Chinese phone makers rely heavily on Android. It’s “dangerous” now because the Chinese player are facing lawsuit risks on patents as they expand in the future.
Besides the Android system, the jury also determined that Samsung “purposely” copied the design of the iPhone, the product of years of research by Apple. Compared with overseas Android models from Motorola, HTC and Sony Mobile, a handset industry observer said China-brand designs are “nothing worth mentioning”. Sony Mobile is good at fashion designs catering to young consumer, while Motorola has slim designs that fascinate enterprise user. There is nothing memorable about China brands, except for their low prices at about 1,000 yuan (US$158).
China is the world’s biggest phone market, and most Apple and Samsung phones are made here. No doubt, patent lawsuits will come sooner or later to China. The big boys are not suing the Chinese firms now because they are not so internationally competitive. If Chinese firms don’t have enough patents and reserved technologies, they will lose the legal challenges. ZTE and Huawei have penetrated overseas markets, mainly in the low end of the mobile phone market. When they try to compete in the high end globally, they need to pay more attention to patent risks. Chinese brands must start now to increase their investment in research of industrial designs, functionality and user experience before it is too late.
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