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Apple v. Samsung: What it'll mean when you buy electronics

People try out the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Jury selection is underway in a huge trial involving Apple and Samsung. Apple's saying, "Hey Samsung! You totally copied the iPhone! No fair!" Samsung says "Nuh-uh! Those are generic designs!" I'm paraphrasing. Samsung is also countersuing Apple.

Colleen Chien teaches law at Santa Clara University and says Apple sees this as a hugely important issue. "We all know from Steve Jobs's biography, he felt that the whole smartphone concept was kind of ripped off. But, in particular, they're focusing on the actual device itself. So, looking at the device, at the hardware, if you aren't looking closely, does it look like an Apple phone? That's the crux of the Apple claim."

This case, and others like it that may follow, will have effects way beyond the courtroom. Say Chien, "Let's play out the scenario here, let's say that Apple is able to prevail and they're not found guilty of infringement but Samsung is, well if you're an Apple user, in some sense, that's OK."

But if you prefer Samsung products, you'd notice some bare shelves because Samsung may have to pay up. Chien says, "Apple's asking for $2.5 billion from Samsung, and that's how much they spent last year on R & D, I mean, and so if that's what Samsung has to pay, then the potential for the number of choices of devices out there to be diminished is real."

Fewer Samsung products for you to choose from because there's way less money to develop them with.

Where this battle goes next will focus on two main areas: how the smartphones on the market today LOOK and how they WORK. Says Chien, "If we're really talking about the design patent part, then that's really particular to Samsung's hardware. But, if we're talking about the functionality, then it will be something that all Android device manufacturers that use Android will have to pay attention to."

And then everyone who makes anything Android could end up in court.

To get a win in this case, Apple's focusing on Samsung's use of physical design. Dan Ackerman writes for CNET and says, "The hardware in a way is easier to patent if you have something that's unique and you file the architectural drawings of it and you have all that paper back end of it that's on file at the patent office. Patented software stuff has always been a little bit harder. You know, Amazon patented that one-click concept, and that was something difficult that a lot of other companies have had to deal with - how to get people to be able to buy stuff in the store without having just a simple one-click buy."

So now, a jury will decide if Samsung's gadgets that look exactly like Apple's are illegal copies or if black rectangles belong to everyone.

**

It's crowded in the studio. Lots of musicians here with me. The Byrds, what time is it?

The Byrds: A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep

That's not helpful, is it Chicago?

Chicago: Does anybody really know what time it is?

No! Because no one wears watches anymore. They just look at phones.

But! A smartwatch boom is underway. The Strata watch has already met its funding goal on Kickstarter. It connects to your smartphone by Bluetooth and lets you call, text, check Facebook or Twitter.

It joins the Pebble, another Kickstarter smartwatch people funded pretty quickly.

The Chambers Brothers: Time has come today! Time has come today!

Not quite, Chambers Brothers. The Strata isn't built yet.

Steve Miller Band: Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future.

Yeah, Steve Miller Band, but it will be here in November.

Oh look at the time. Sorry I didn't get to you, Prince.

Prince: Party over, oops, out of time.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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