updated 04:04 am EDT, Mon July 2, 2012
Judge Koh affirms validity of Apple claims
Coming swiftly after two injunctions barring sales of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh has also denied Samsung the option of summary judgement motions on all of its claims against Apple -- 12 in all. The decision does not remove the claims from the upcoming trial, but precludes Samsung from any early victories, and casts a shadow on the validity of the claims.
By contrast, Apple used its appeal for summary judgement on only three of Samsung's seven claims, and was rewarded with a dismissal of one of them, now leaving a total of six Samsung claims remaining against Apple's 12 claims. Samsung's case has been weakened further with the blocking of large portions of Samsung's "expert" testimony (although Apple also lost some experts in the process) and a narrowing of additional time granted for new depositions compared to Apple.
Legal experts say that Samsung's claims are also weak on their face, being based almost entirely on standards-essential patents (SEPs) that are eligible for "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" licensing (FRAND), which several judges -- including Judge Koh, who is overseeing this case -- have said should not be used as legal weapons, a key element of Apple's argument against Samsung's claims. At best, Samsung could hope to force Apple to pay for licenses on some of the patents it holds, but at this point is seen as unlikely to win any sales injunctions as Apple has done.
However, the matter is still not settled -- and though Apple's case looks stronger going into the trial, it is likely that the company will have to withdraw some of its own claims (which could be contested in future cases later) in order to narrow down the scope of the case. As patent case analyst Florian Mueller notes, Judge Koh has already restricted the number of hours of speaking time each litigant gets, as well as the number of exhibits. Apple may choose to focus on fewer claims to allow more time for each.
It may also decide to go ahead with a request to issue an injunction against the Galaxy S III, which Apple unsuccessfully tried to block before its US debut. The court may now agree that other Samsung products, such as the S III, are infringing on the same "unified search" patent (which covers Siri and other methodology) and if so should be subject to the same injunction as the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab are under. Such a move could delay the overall trial while Samsung appeals, however, and Apple has so far pursued a strategy of wanting to hurry the trial along while Samsung attempts delays -- a tactic that has reaped benefits thus far.
Mueller believes the judge has already reached a conclusion based on the evidence so far that Samsung (and, by proxy, Google -- which provides the Android software that has been found to be infringing on multiple Apple patents) and is likely to continue enforcing punitive measures until Samsung withdraws or works around the infringing products and software. The language in the decisions so far, he says, indicate that the judge has taken a dim view of Samsung trying to fight Apple with SEPs rather than legitimate examples where Apple is copying a non-essential Samsung patent.
Apple, by contrast, has been fighting -- and mostly winning -- against Samsung both on hardware (design) patent infringing as well as software (Android) patent infringing. The latter judgements may ultimately carry more weight, as they will inevitably force Google to become an active defendant in the cases, substantially raising the cost of Android and risking portions of the OS itself.
Mueller notes that when looking at all the cases with results so far, Android has been found to be violating a total of 11 Apple and Microsoft patents -- with many other cases (including this one) ongoing, at some point the carriers will tire of defending themselves against software infringements that actually originate from Google.