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Apple’s $1 Billion Patent Infringement Verdict Against Samsung Could Turn Out Largely Symbolic
Earlier this year Apple won a billion-dollar US patent infringement case against Samsung. On almost every single claim Apple succeeded, including claims of willful infringement by Samsung. Samsung lost on all its counterclaims. It was a staggering victory for Apple and apparent vindication of its contention that Samsung had “slavishly copied” the iPhone for its various Android handset designs.
Yet even this massive win with its $1 billion verdict may turn out to be largely symbolic.
Yesterday Judge Lucy Koh denied both Samsung and Apple what they wanted in a post-trial hearing. Samsung had asserted juror misconduct and was denied a new trial on those grounds by the judge. Thus it appears the verdict and findings against 26 of Samsung’s devices will stand.
By the same token, however, Apple was denied a permanent injunction against the US sale of those infringing Samsung devices, including the popular Galaxy line. The basis of the judge’s ruling was that despite the jury’s verdict and evidence of infringement Apple did not meet the burden of showing that lost sales were the direct result of the Samsung infringement.
Apple will probably appeal. Indeed the judge’s post-trial ruling on a permanent injunction seems a sharp contrast with the jury’s findings and verdict. They are in a way directly at odds. That may give Apple a powerful argument on appeal.
Samsung is the leading handset maker in the US. There’s no question that some of its success has come at Apple’s expense. But the question of whether the infringement that Samsung is guilty of lead directly to handset sales is harder.
Apple will try and make that case on appeal; the argument would be that the UI and UX of Samsung phones, including infringing elements, made them very much like the iPhone and contributed to sales erosion for Apple.
My guess is also that Judge Koh was concerned that agreeing to a permanent injunction against 26 Samsung handsets in the US would have been seen as a radical move and probably (at least partly) overturned on appeal. Trial court judges are cautious about doing things that would potentially be overturned by appellate courts. Their records on appeal (“never been overturned”) form part of their professional reputations.
Judge Koh might have genuinely believed that a permanent injunction was not justified by the evidence but her ruling effectively amounts to a “judgment notwithstanding the verdict.”
Postscript: Samsung announced that it will drop its requests for injunctions against Apple’s iOS products in Europe.