The Epic Technology Battles of 2012

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By Toneo Tonderai Rutsito

This article initially appeared in the herald newspaper yesterday
Last year will be remembered in technology circles as one in which techology companies around the globe had a go at each other using the legal route. In Zimbabwe, the main highlight was the case

pitting mobile service providers Econet and NetOne. The dispute started when Econet terminated its interconnection service with NetOne over outstanding fees.

Econet claimed that it was owed US$20,4 million excluding interests, in outstanding internet connection fees by NetOne.

Econet said it had an agreement with NetOne for local traffic termination under which the operators would pay US7c per minute for calls going into each other’s network. But NetOne reportedly failed to remit accumulated monthly fees due to Econet.

NetOne responded to the disconnection by taking Econet to court, which resulted in the later restoring connection pending the hearing of the case at the High Court on August 27.

The day after the court hearing Econet again disconnected service, but rescinded its decision. Lawyers of both parties, Mr Harrison Nkomo and Mr Collin Kuhuni representing Econet and NetOne respectively, confirmed the development.

Mr Nkomo said Econet’s decision to restore services to NetOne was unilateral.
“Econet has taken a unilateral decision to reconnect NetOne considering both the negative impact on the subscribers and the unreasonable stance that NetOne took of disregarding the impact of the disconnection,” said Mr Nkomo at the time. He said although they appeared before Justice Hlatshwayo, no order was made.

However, Mr Kuhuni said the legal wrangle is not over as the matter will be heard in court in due course.

Africom also had an internal bruising battle with two of its directors Messrs Simbarashe Mangwende and Farai Rwodzi after it announced that they had resigned from the Africom Holdings board in December 2011.

This led to boardroom squabbles that were later on resolved. On the international scene Apple took on Samsung over patents in what was dubbed the mother of all tech battles.

The patent disputes began when Samsung released its Galaxy smartphones in 2010. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs vowed before his death last year to wage “thermonuclear war” to prove that phones run on Google’s Android operating system copy the iPhone.

In August, Samsung was then slapped with a US$1,05 billion fine after a jury found that it had violated Apple’s mobile patents.

The verdict was that Samsung had violated six out of seven of Apple’s patents in question, three of which cover familiar touch functions made possible by Google’s Android software.

In the wake of the ruling, Apple wasted no time in pinpointing eight Samsung phones it wanted banned, but the bid was unsuccessful.

Among the features in dispute included Pinch to zoom: The iPhone was one of the first touchscreen gadgets to have the feature — but the USPTO has ruled Apple’s patent on the invention is invalid Samsung won a preliminary invalidation of Apple’s “rubber-banding” patent in October that had the “bounce” feature.

The patent is for a feature which allows users with touchscreens to bounce back to the image on the screen if they attempt to scroll beyond the edge.

Instagram, which is now part of Facebook, got slammed with a US$15 billion class action suit from users who said that the social network was “improperly tracking the internet use of its members even after they logged out of their accounts”. The case is still to be settled.

Google has dropped two patent lawsuits against Microsoft related to video compression technology in its Xbox 360 console.

Reports suggest that Google was forced to withdraw its legal complaint due to a US Federal Trade Commission ruling that the web giant must license out essential, or FRAND patents, at a fair and reasonable price.

Google had previously demanded US$4 billion a year in royalties for the patents, while Microsoft argued

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