Appeals Court Orders Judge Koh to Reconsider Ban on Samsung Devices

Apple in CourtAn appeals court has ordered Judge Lucy Koh to reconsider her decision not to award Apple with an import ban on Samsung devices that were found to infringe on Apple patents. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed down a unanimous ruling that instructed Judge Koh to reconsider Apple's claim that Samsung's infringement was causing irreparable harm to the iPhone and iPad maker.

According to FOSS Patents' coverage of the ruling, the judges wrote:

We find no reason to dislodge the district court's conclusion that Apple failed to demonstrate irreparable harm from Samsung’s infringement of its design patents. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of injunctive relief with respect to those patents. However, with respect to Apple's utility patents, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion in its analysis and consequently remand for further proceedings.

At the heart of the ruling is the decision that while individual patents may not have been the sole reason for a customer to choose an infringing product, multiple infringed patents can aggregate together to increase total ease-of-use such that customers choose the infringing product. As such, Apple is entitled to injunctive relief from the infringement (i.e. a sales and import ban).

That's significant for Apple, because it will play a role in ongoing infringement disputes between Apple and Samsung in the U.S., and it establishes a surmountable bar for Apple. With Judge Koh's original ruling, the bar was set so high that injunctive relief was effectively impossible for anyone to reach.

It wasn't a complete victory for Apple, however, as the court upheld Judge Koh's ruling to not award a sales ban for infringement on Apple's design patents, limiting their order-to-reconsider to infringement on several utility patents Samsung was found to infringe.

Industry typically moves faster than the courts, and that's especially so with technology. Monday's ruling is for a case that was originally concluded in August of 2012, with Judge Koh's decision to not award an import ban coming a few months after that. Even then, however, most of these products had long been off the market.

Florian Mueller noted, however, that Apple's original request for an injunction was not limited to the devices in the original trial, but also for other Samsung devices with, "an infringement pattern that is no more than colorably different from the accused products in this particular case."

That could make it much easier for Apple to get injunctions on other Samsung devices that infringe, forcing Samsung to either work around Apple's patents or remove the infringing features. If Apple is right, that will make Samsung's devices less desirable. If Samsung is right, people will continue buying them despite the decreased usability.