Samsung and Apple Are Boxing Another Round: Patent Trial Coming Soon
On March 6, a California district court filed a ruling denying Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) renewed motion that sought a permanent injunction against Samsung (SSNLF.PK); once again, the iPhone maker failed to prove to Judge Lucy Koh there there existed a significant enough “causal nexus” between the infringement of its design patents and irreparable harm to its business to warrant the injunction. Less than a day later, Samsung responded by appealing the California court’s final judgment of the original 2012 Apple vs. Samsung patent trial that awarded the iPhone maker $929 million in damages. The only difference in the second patent trial scheduled to begin at the end of this month is that the South Korea-based electronics manufacturer has entirely dismissed three asserted standard-essential patents claims against Apple. Standard-essential patents enable devices manufactured by different companies to function together.
Apple’s current quest for a permanent injunction against Samsung dates back to December 2012 when U.S. District Court Lucy Koh initially denied a motion seeking a permanent sales against 23 Samsung devices, writing that, “In sum, to the limited extent that Apple has been able to show that any of its harms were caused by Samsung’s illegal conduct (in this case, only trade dress dilution), Apple has not established that the equities support an injunction.”
The iPhone maker then secured a partial appeal of the ruling in a federal circuit court, which sent the motion back to Judge Koh in November 2013. The appeals court affirmed Koh’s denial of patents for trade dress — a legal term that refers to characteristics of the visual appearance of a product or its packaging that signify the source of the product to consumers. However, it did find that the district court should reexamine Apple’s claims of infringement of its software patents.
Even though Apple was thought to have chance at winning a sales ban, Judge Koh remained unconvinced by the company’s arguments. The fact that Koh was not swayed by Apple’s arguments is concerning; the injunction had much broader implications than the company’s failure to secure a sales ban against Samsung’s 23 out-of-date products. Had the ruling gone the other way, the iPhone maker could have established a precedent for obtaining such injunctions in future court proceedings, like the upcoming second installment of the California patent trial. It is now clear that Apple’s lawyers will have to find a new argument to show the “causal nexus” between patent infringement and irreparable harm as Koh’s rulings indicate she has found Samsung’s competition to be lawful.
“Apple, in other words, cannot obtain a permanent injunction merely because Samsung’s lawful competition impacts Apple in a way that monetary damages cannot remedy,” read the March 6 order. “To award an injunction to Apple in these circumstances would ignore the Federal Circuit’s warning that a patentee may not ‘leverage its patent for competitive gain beyond that which the inventive contribution and value of the patent warrant.’”
The March sequel to the 2012 Apple v. Samsung jury trial comes after damages were revised lower. Early last year, Judge Koh vacated about $450 million of the original $1.05 billion, ruling that the previous jury had made some errors when determining the damages in 2012. Koh upheld approximately $640 million of the original sum, and a retrial was then ordered to recalculate the remaining damages. Combined with the retrial verdict of $290.5 million that was made in November, Apple has now been awarded $929.8 million in the case. In the appeal, Apple has five claims from five patents to assert against Samsung.
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