Judge to Apple: No Sales Ban on Older Samsung Devices

judge court gavel (640x477)

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has suffered another setback in its ongoing patent-infringement battle with Samsung (SSNLF.PK). In an order issued on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple’s renewed motion for an injunction that would have permanently banned the sales of 23 Samsung products, reports Foss Patents. Judge Koh originally denied Apple’s first request for a permanent ban on the products in December of 2012. However, an appeals court disagreed with the reasoning behind Judge Koh’s denial of a permanent injunction and asked her to reconsider her ruling.

According to the ruling obtained by Foss Patents, Judge Koh came to the same conclusion that she had previously reached. “The Court concludes that Apple simply has not met its burden of proof to warrant an injunction,” wrote Judge Koh. “Most significant is Apple’s failure to prove a causal nexus between Samsung’s infringement of Apple’s patents and Apple’s irreparable harm.”

As noted in the court documents, Apple’s motion for a permanent injunction was based on Samsung’s infringement of three technical patents: the so-called “pinch-to-zoom” patent, the “rubber-banding” patent, and the “double-tap-to-zoom” patent. In order to prove a causal nexus between Samsung’s infringement of these patents and “irreparable harm,” Apple cited a survey conducted by Dr. John Hauser. Hauser’s survey purported to prove that consumers were more likely to buy a Samsung device when the device included Apple’s patented features.

However, the court found several problematic issues with Dr. Hauser’s survey. “First, Dr. Hauser’s survey does not provide a way to directly compare consumers’ willingness to pay for particular features to the overall value of the infringing devices,” wrote Judge Koh. “In other words, Dr. Hauser’s survey measures the market demand for the patented features in a vacuum, without relation to the actual price or value of the devices.”

Second, the court noted that Dr. Hauser’s survey only included a limited number of patented features on hypothetical devices that “is devoid of sufficient context” and makes it impossible to know if consumers were willing to pay for Apple’s patented features. Finally, the court also found that Dr. Hauser’s survey “failed to adequately account for noninfringing alternatives to the patented features.” In other words, the survey failed to consider that consumers may be less likely to buy an Apple product with a particular patented feature if there is an alternative that performs a similar function on another device.

Besides unduly emphasizing patented features at the expense of “noninfringing alternatives,” the court also noted that the survey’s “various graphic effects and presentation methods likely inflated their price premiums.” Due to these issues, the survey likely overstated consumers’ willingness to pay for Apple’s patented features. “Dr. Hauser’s survey results do not change the Court’s conclusion,” wrote Judge Koh.

Other “causal nexus” evidence introduced by Apple included internal Samsung documents that showed the company discussed copying the iPhone’s touchscreen effects, as well as general consumer surveys in which Apple customers described various features that led them to purchase an iPhone or iPad. However, in both cases, the court noted that this evidence was “insufficient to establish the required causal nexus” that could be used to justify an injunction.

Apple’s latest setback follows Wednesday’s news that Apple had publicly disclosed terms of confidential patent license agreements with Nokia (NYSE:NOK). Apple had been seeking sanctions against Samsung for allegedly using confidential information that it had acquired about Apple’s patent license agreements. However, it now appears that Apple is guilty of failing to properly protect its own confidential licensing agreements.

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