updated 01:55 pm EDT, Thu October 11, 2012
Case will go back to California court for reconsideration
A US appeals court has overturned a preliminary injunction that placed a sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The case will now return to a California court for reconsideration. Apple initially won an injunction against the Galaxy Nexus in June of this year, but today's ruling found that Judge Lucy Koh's court had "abused its discretion" during its decision on the injunction.
Apple initially brought suit against Samsung in February of this year, alleging that the Galaxy Nexus -- developed to Google's specifications and running an unskinned version of Android -- infringed on eight patents. The patent at issue in the current appeals case involves US Patent No. 8,086,604, which covers an apparatus for a unified search allowing users to search multiple data storage locations on a device. Apple claims that the Quick Search Box on the Galaxy Nexus constitutes an infringement of Apple's unified search patent.
In appealing the injunction, Samsung argued that the court had abused its discretion in finding that Apple would be irreparably harmed in the absence of a sales injunction and that the court's finding that Apple had sufficiently established a causal nexus between the alleged harm and the infringing conduct was yet another abuse of discretion. In returning the decision to the California courts, the Court of Appeals agreed that Koh's court had abused its discretion in determining the establishment of a sufficient causal nexus, but it did not address Samsung's argument regarding irreparable harm.
While it did not fully comment on the factor of irreparable harm, the court did in its statement cast some doubt on Apple's claim. "Sales lost to an infringing product cannot irreparably harm a patentee if consumers buy that product for reasons other than the patented feature," the court said.
In short, the court determined that Apple's argument that the unified search feature was a primary driver of Galaxy Nexus sales was belied by Apple's own evidence showing that unified search was not even among the top five reasons consumers select Android smartphones. Therefore, Apple could not, in the appeals court's opinion, demonstrate that the use of a unified search feature would irreparably harm Apple's sales.
The case will now return to a California court for reconsideration. No date has been set for when new proceedings might begin.