By Corey Omer
Last week in San Jose, California, lawyers for Apple and Samsung squared off as the second major trial between the two mobile technology giants took off. Apple seeks roughly $2 billion in damages — $40 per allegedly infringing Samsung device sold in the United States — for violation of five of its mobile software patents. Samsung claims that Apple violated two of its own patents. The last time Apple and Samsung sparred over patents, Apple secured a decisive victory, and Samsung was ordered to pay $930 million in damages. The damages order can be found here.
Brian X. Chen of the New York Times notes that many of the patented features at issue have become “mainstays on mobile devices”: unified search, slide-to-unlock, remote video transmission, and data tapping among others.
Professor Mark P. McKenna of Notre Dame has also highlighted that “Google’s been lurking in the background of all these cases because of the Android system. . . . Several people have described the initial battle between Samsung and Apple as really one between Apple and Google.” Indeed, some of the contested features were put on the Samsung devices by Google through its Android operating system, rather than by Samsung itself. Google’s Android operating system—the main competitor to Apple’s iOS—runs on more than a billion devices worldwide, and an Apple victory against Samsung could require Google to make changes to several important Android features.
Block v. eBay — Misinterpreting Terms of Service
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a plaintiff’s stretched reading of eBay’s user agreement in Block v. Ebay, Inc., No. 12-16527 (9th Cir. Apr. 1, 2014). The court unanimously affirmed the district court’s ruling that neither of the contested provisions constitutes a promise by eBay.
The plaintiff attacked eBay’s “Automatic Bidding System”—which incrementally increases a user’s bid in response to other users’ bids until the user’s specified maximum bid is reached—as a violation of two user agreement terms. Block, slip op. at 3. First, eBay’s User Agreement states that eBay is “not involved in the actual transaction between buyers and sellers.” Id. at 5. Second, the agreement provides that “[n]o agency . . . relationship is intended or created by this Agreement.” Id. at 4.
Eric Goldman suggests that “[w]hile this case reached a good result, it offers a good cautionary tale for contract drafters–especially lawyers drafting contracts for successful online businesses whose bank accounts are like honeypots to plaintiffs’ lawyers with an insatiable appetite for someone else’s cash.”
GrubHub Goes Public
Late last Thursday, online food ordering company GrubHub (owner of food-delivery services Seamless.com and Menupages.com; NYSE: GRUB) priced its initial public offering of 7.4 million shares at $26 per share. On Friday, the shares soared, finishing the day with a 31% gain and leaving the company valued at $2.7 billion.
With 3.4 million “Active Diners” and over 28,000 affiliated restaurants paying GrubHub a commission each time a customer places an order through one of its websites, GrubHub appears to be booming. Yet not everyone is confident that GrubHub’s operating and financial conditions justify its present market valuation. Forbes’ Peter Cohan, for instance, suggests resisting “tak[ing] a bite of GrubHub’s IPO.”
Tweet Away, Turkey
Last Wednesday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the country’s ban on Twitter violated the right to free expression, and it demanded that citizens’ access to the website be restored. Prime Minister Erdogan’s office responded on Thursday by lifting the ban, which, Gul Tuysuz and Laura Smith-Spark of CNN report “began hours after Erdogan threatened to ‘eradicate’ Twitter at a campaign rally on March 20, blaming social media for fueling anti-government rhetoric.”
On Friday, a court in Ankara also lifted a total ban on YouTube, which was imposed less than a week after the Twitter ban. The court nevertheless decided to continue to block 15 specific YouTube links. It remains unclear when access to the video streaming website will in fact be restored.