updated 09:52 am EST, Thu March 6, 2014
Company failed to prove harm caused by Samsung patent infringement
A California court has denied Apple a renewed motion it sought for a permanent injunction against Samsung, according to reports. In December 2012, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh made the initial denial of a permanent injunction against 23 Samsung devices. Apple won a partial appeal of the ruling at the Federal Circuit, which affirmed the denial of trade dress (design) patents, but handed back an injunction over software patents to Koh for review.
In her new denial, Koh argues that Apple has failed to prove a "causal nexus" between Samsung patent infringement and irreparable harm. Apple has argued that after the iPhone was released in 2007, Samsung set about copying it as closely as it could, and that there's a marked difference between the phones it shipped before and after. Koh may feel that Samsung has engaged in largely lawful competition; indeed the Federal Circuit has warned that a patent holder can't "leverage its patent for competitive gain beyond that which the inventive contribution and value of the patent warrant."
Some of the patents Apple has pursued Samsung over are for minor interface elements, like the "bounce" at the end of scrolling menus. The companies have also fought over hardware issues like 3G patents, but those were not at stake today.
Some experts believe Koh's ruling sets the bar impossibly high for products to end up with actual sales injunctions, as a competitor would have to copy a primary selling feature, rather than thousands of smaller but important patents, before its violations would meet the sales ban requirements set forth in Koh's ruling. This would in effect encourage companies like Samsung to continue infringing on patents, as the financial cost of doing so is trivial compared to the gain in profits from copying other companies' technology.