Samsung’s on-again-off-again fine for infringing on Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent is back on again. A U.S. Federal Appeals Court overturned its own ruling on Friday that Samsung didn’t have to pay the fine, so now the smartphone maker owes Apple US$119.6 million for infringing on the unlock and autocorrect-related patents.
The new ruling was handed down by all the judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals on the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. The earlier ruling they overturned came from a three-judge panel instead of all of the judges.
The earlier ruling tossing out the damages came in February when the three-judge panel said a lower court was wrong when it found Samsung infringed on the slide-to-unlock and autocorrect patents. Those judges said Apple’s patents weren’t valid, and as such Samsung didn’t need to pony up the $119.6 million for damages.
Today’s ruling (PDF) is the latest in an ongoing patent infringement fight between the two companies dating back to a 2014 verdict where a Federal jury said Samsung owes Apple $119.6 million for infringing on the slide-to-unlock and autocorrect patents. Samsung appealed the ruling and convinced the three-judge panel to invalidate the patents.
The decision to overturn the February ruling was based on a finding that the three-judge panel used evidence that hadn’t been used in court as part of their decision. Samsung’s next step is to decide if it will appeal this ruling and ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Samsung’s next move
Samsung will likely wait until next Tuesday before deciding what to do next. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to look at Samsung’s appeal in the 2011 mobile device patent infringement case where it ultimately agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages. If that ruling stands, Apple keeps the money. If not, Samsung gets it back with interest.
Regardless of how the Supreme Court rules, we’re closer to seeing at least part of the protracted patent infringement fight between the two companies wrap up. Whatever ruling the court hands down for the 2011 case will be final, leaving today’s ruling in the 2014 case in Samsung’s lap. Whether Samsung continues to fight the case remains to be seen, but considering the company’s long standing track record of doing just that, it’s more likely than not we’ll be hearing about their next filing soon.
Either way, today’s ruling is a big win for Apple because slide-to-unlock has been a big part of the company’s patent infringement argument for years.