Apple Inc. (AAPL), following a jury verdict that Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) infringed three of its patents, is seeking a U.S. sales ban on some older models of the South Korean company’s smartphones.
Winning a ban may prove difficult for Apple because Koh, who also presided over the companies’ first U.S. trial in 2012, twice rejected the iPhone-maker’s request in that case, legal experts have said. This time around the jury also concluded that Apple infringed one of Samsung’s patents, though the Galaxy-maker hasn’t yet requested a ban of Apple products.
Apple’s bid “seems like a hard sell, given that it failed to achieve an injunction in the last trial with significant design patent infringement and similar feature patent infringement,” said Michael Risch, a law professor at Villanova University.
Apple, which has said that a sales ban is more important than monetary damages, has been waging legal battles with Samsung since 2011 across four continents. The world’s top two smartphone makers each seek to dominate a market that was valued at $338.2 billion last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“After the jury rejected Apple’s grossly exaggerated damages claim, Apple is once again leaning on the court to push other smartphones out of the market,” Samsung spokesman Adam Yates said in an e-mailed statement. “If granted, this would stifle fair competition and limit choice for American consumers.”
Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Both companies also filed requests to alter the judgments against them in their favor. Apple requested a new trial. Such requests are difficult to win, Risch said, because judges are reluctant to undo or alter jury decisions.
Samsung’s share of global smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2014 fell to about 31 percent from 32 percent a year earlier, according to Strategy Analytics. Apple’s share fell to about 15 percent from almost 18 percent in the same period, while Chinese producers such as Huawei Technologies Co. and Xiaomi Corp. gained in emerging markets with cheaper, feature-packed devices.
Apple announced May 17 it was settling litigation involving Google Inc. (GOOGL)’s Motorola Mobility handset unit. That agreement, patent experts said, might only intensify its feud with Samsung, which uses Google’s Android operating system to power its phones.
Three days after that settlement announcement, Apple and Samsung blamed each other in a report to Koh for blocking progress on resolving their patent disputes. While both companies vowed to continue pursuing an accord to end their three-year legal fight, each said in a court filing that its adversary has taken positions that make out-of-court resolution more difficult.
The nine devices targeted by Cupertino, California-based Apple for a U.S. sales ban include the Admire, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S3 and Stratosphere.
Samsung had already designed around some of the patents that apply to the Galaxy S3, according to Risch. “It’s unlikely that even a ‘feature’ injunction will have much of an effect on future products,” he said.
Apple won infringement findings on three of its five patents at issue in the case, which revolved around whether Samsung used Android features that copied the iPhone maker’s technology. Apple claimed 10 Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S3, infringe five of its patents. The patents cover a range of user-interface designs for the iOS software that powers iPhones and iPads.
Samsung’s newest smartphones, the Galaxy S4 and S5, weren’t at stake in the trial. Samsung is counting on the Galaxy S5, which went on sale March 27 in South Korea, as its marquee device to compete with Apple for high-end shoppers and with Chinese producers that target budget buyers.
Jurors found that Apple infringed one of two Samsung patents at issue and awarded $158,000 in damages to the Galaxy maker. Samsung contended that five Apple devices, including the iPhone 5 and versions of the iPod, infringe two of its patents. Samsung sought $6.2 million in damages. The deadline for seeking a sales ban was May 23. As of yesterday, no Samsung request to ban sales of the infringing Apple products was available from court records.
The jury of four women and four men heard almost four weeks of evidence. In the first case, which involved earlier models of smartphones and tablets, Apple argued that a sales ban was required to stop Samsung from trying to market products that were “not more than colorably different” from those already found to have copied Apple’s technology.
Koh, acting on orders from an appeals court, reconsidered her 2012 decision rejecting a sales ban. She concluded in March that Apple still hadn’t marshaled enough evidence to support its request covering more than 20 devices that were no longer on the market.
The judge found there wasn’t a strong enough connection between Samsung’s infringement and the irreparable harm Apple said it was likely to suffer. In particular, she said Apple didn’t prove that the patented smartphone features at issue in the 2012 trial drive consumer demand for the infringing Samsung products.
The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 12-cv-00630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
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