The second U.S. trial between tech titans Apple and Samsung over the $338.2 billion smartphone market is the latest intellectual property battle to play out over the patent protections that are so vital to the tech industry.
Apple claims that 10 Samsung products, including the Galaxy S3, infringe upon five patents covering user-interface designs for the iOS software used by iPhones and iPads. These patents cover the Google Inc. Android operating system used by Samsung devices, not the smartphone’s appearance, which was a key issue in the first trial.
In 2012, a jury found that Samsung had infringed on patents related to the iPhone and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. The award later was reduced to a $930 million, and Apple failed to secure one of its goals: a court order prohibiting Samsung from selling the disputed devices in the United States.
In the trial playing out in a Silicon Valley courtroom, Apple is trying again for a similar order and twice the amount of damages, according to a Bloomberg news story.
Will Apple be more successful with its second attempt at a Samsung sales ban?
Apple is expected to have a difficult time getting an injunction with the next trial as well, because the judge who decided not to ban Samsung products in the past (U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh) will be presiding at this next trial as well.
Judge Koh found Apple failed to show that the infringing patented features drove consumer demand for the Samsung products at issue. Without that evidence, Judge Koh decided not to enjoin Samsung sales. Apple relied on a survey designed to measure consumers’ willingness to pay for Apple’s patented smartphone features in the prior trial, but Judge Koh wasn’t convinced by the results.
For the second trial, that survey was expanded and takes a different approach, quantifying a decrease in demand for Samsung products that don’t have the allegedly infringing features. After first ruling in January that Apple couldn’t use this second survey in the second trial, Judge Koh changed her mind in February and is permitting its use.
What are Apple’s motives for its second lawsuit against Samsung?
Brian Love, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School, is quoted by Bloomberg as saying the injunction Apple seeks may be years away, thanks to the lengthy legal process and expected appeals. By then, the products at issue will be “relics” in the fast-paced world of smartphone development. He tells Bloomberg there is a reason, beyond patent prosecution, why Apple is pursuing legal action,
“It seems like there is almost a marketing aspect to the case in that Apple is trying to send a message through all this litigation that ‘We’re the true innovators in the smartphone world, and everyone else is riding our coattails’…If that’s their goal, it’s kind of hard to put a dollar value on that.”
It’s unlikely that Samsung was unaware of Apple’s patents; in fact, one of the South Korean company’s arguments in the second trial is that the disputed features are so common as to be undeserving of patent protection.
Smaller or more conservative companies who don’t want to risk billion-dollar court battles, however, would do well to perform rigorous prior art research before drafting and submitting patent applications or incorporating patented technology into their products. Intellectual property products such as LexisNexis® PatentOptimizer™ can help meet that goal.