Apple suffered a substantial setback on Thursday after an appeals court reversed a preliminary injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Nexus. The setback wasn't so much the specific reversal, but the effect that reversal appears likely to have on Apple's ongoing efforts to win import bans on infringing Samsung devices.
The decision was handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after Samsung appealed a preliminary injunction issued by Judge Lucy Koh against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. That injunction was based on infringement by Samsung of a patent owned by Apple on so-called unified searches—searches that search multiple sources from one field. That patent is also known as the '604 patent.
While Samsung was found guilty of willfully infringing that and several other Apple patents, the appeals court ruled on Thursday that Judge Koh abused her discretion by granting Apple's request for a sales injunction.
According to Reuters, the court said that Apple failed to prove that customers bought Apple's iPhone 4S because of this feature or that the Samsung customers bought the Galaxy Nexus because of its infringing behavior.
"It may very well be that the accused product would sell almost as well without incorporating the patented feature," the court wrote in its decision. "And in that case, even if the competitive injury that results from selling the accused device is substantial, the harm that flows from the alleged infringement (the only harm that should count) is not."
Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents noted that the court also addressed a claim construction issue, meaning how the patent claim at issue was written. After examining the meaning of the word "each" in the patent claim as applied to the particulars of the infringement claim, the appeals court said that Apple was unlikely to prevail on its infringement claim.
That's the setback for Apple. According to Mr. Mueller, the '604 patent is now a candidate for being dismissed from Apple's second infringement lawsuit against Samsung.
Earlier in October, Samsung also won a reversal of a preliminary sales injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Apple still has a hearing set for December 6th, 2012, for a permanent injunction against the Samsung devices the jury found to infringe on Apple's patents. The '604 patent is just one of those patents, and it's still possible for Apple to win a permanent injunction against Samsung for its actions. Mr. Mueller noted, however, that it is generally considered difficult to win permanent injunctions in the U.S. judicial system.