How should the false documents in Apple's patent suits be handled?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: August 19, 2011

Apple has been on a tirade for the past few months, suing a handful of Android partner manufacturers for anything they feel looks or operates remotely like their iPhone or iPad. When this first began, Apple had a very strong case. The original Galaxy S, despite being larger in height and width, looks strikingly similar to Apple's popular iPhone. And even the TouchWiz interface has some undeniable similarities to iOS.

But Apple didn't stop there. That was only the beginning of a mountain of other lawsuits they had lined up for Samsung, HTC and Motorola. HTC was found guilty of infringing on two of ten Apple-owned patents in a US suit. That ruling is still subject to review by a six person committee before it is finalized, but Apple has continued their relentless pursuit and filed another lawsuit against the Taiwanese company, claiming they violated five more patents. Apple also went as far as to say that the design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Motorola XOOM infringed on the design of the iPad. They were granted two injunctions: one that halted the sales of the Tab in Australia and the other stopped sales across most of the European Union.

Not long after, discovered that the documentation Apple used in the filings may have been altered. The Dutch website discovered that Apple was listing the aspect ratio of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 as 1.36, versus the iPad's aspect ratio of 1.30. In truth, the aspect ratio of the Tab 10.1 is 1.46. The alteration seems small, but when seeing the differences side by side, it gives off a much different impression of the Tab. According to the same site that discovered the first tampered images, Apple allegedly doctored images of the Galaxy S, too, in another case in the Netherlands.

Getting caught red handed for stretching the truth in an already far-fetched claim is one thing. But doing it more than once – in a suit where they actually had a case – speaks volumes. For one, it shows their own lack of confidence in the cases and reveals that the company is not against playing dirty and bending the rules to undermine the competition. It also makes you wonder how many other stretched facts and doctored images have been used in the pile of lawsuits filed by the Cupertino-based company. Is Steve Jobs or Tim Cook in the know on this? Was it done without their knowing? It leaves a million unanswered questions that we may never know the answer to.

The argument in Apple's favor was that they were unknowingly using old, pre-release images of the Galaxy Tab – understandable but not likely. But there is no excuse for shrinking the Galaxy S to be the same size as the iPhone. Everyone knows (or should know) the Galaxy S is slightly larger than the iPhone. Apple has a track record for not 'fessing up when push comes to shove, but they've pretty much been cornered here. They were trying to protect their intellectual property and got carried away and aggressive. Too aggressive. And they crossed the line.

This makes me wonder if Apple will be held responsible for what they have done. I'm sure something will be done to legally punish Apple for their wrongdoings. In all likeliness, the cases will simply be thrown out ... and they may be fined some arbitrary amount. But we all know Apple's pockets run deep and a fine is as effective as a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, as this type of thing normally goes, it will probably quietly be swept under the carpet and soon forgotten. That's why their legal team makes the big bucks, right?

They have wrongfully been granted injunctions based on false information. This halted the sales of their competitions' products across several nations. If anything, the entire stack of lawsuits Apple has filed should be subjected to review for other false documents. I'm obviously no lawyer and I'm not exactly sure what could be done in this case, but something should be done. No individual would be able to simply walk away after being busted for falsifying evidence, why should Apple?

What say you, folks? Should Apple be punished for doctoring the images – or providing false evidence? What should they face as a penalty? Any lawyers in the house that want to speak up?