Patent Trial: Has Apple Lost an Edge on Samsung?

In the case that never ends between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (SSNLF.PK), a key patent finding could have U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh pulling the rug out from underneath Apple’s claims.

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The case has already been volatile and dramatic, as Judge Koh first awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages after a jury found that Samsung violated patents involved in more than 28 different smartphones, and then she removed 14 devices from the ruling, dropping the damages by $450 million.

The issue may not even be solved in a single case, as it now appears that Apple will have to begin a second trial in order to receive the damages related to the 14 devices that have been eliminated from the case. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing for Apple, as it’s possible that the company could receive more in damages in a retrial for the 14 devices than it did in the original trial.

But, there was some bad news for Apple on the horizon Tuesday morning, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the validity of a key patent Apple had used in the case against Samsung. A number of claims in the patent application were found invalid, namely claim 19, which had been leveraged against Samsung products in the trial.

The patent relates to Apple’s ‘rubber-banding’ feature, which shows users when they have reached the end of a scrollable page. Last October, the USPTO found two cases of prior art against the patent, leading to its denial. Apple still has several means of appealing the decision, and a portion of its case against Samsung could hinge on its success…

If Apple eventually loses the patent, and claim 19 is still found invalid, a new trial for the damages of related products may be necessary because of the manner in which damages were awarded in the original trial. At that time, the court focused on per-product instead of per-patent damages.

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While this patent issue may not be the be-all-end-all of the court case, it is sure to slow down the process, which is likely to benefit Samsung and harm Apple. Samsung will be able to put off paying damages for some time, and Apple will not likely get a sales injunction anytime soon.

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