After reviewing Apple and Samsung's arguments, Judge Lucy Koh ruled late on Friday that the second patent infringement case the companies have brought against each other can move forward on schedule. She had been considering a delay while Samsung appeals the first trial's ruling, but seems to have been swayed by Apple's argument that the second case is different enough to move forward. That's good news for Apple, but in the end it may not matter at all to Samsung.
Second Apple v Samsung case moves forward, but Samsung may not care
Judge Koh had been considering postponing the second patent infringement trial because it potentially overlapped the original enough to make it redundant. Apple, however, argued that stalling the case would let Samsung continue to copy its products.
As part of her ruling to allow the second case to move forward while the first works its way through the appeal process, Judge Koh ordered both sides to narrow the scope of their complaints or face a stay in the case that would stall the trial.
Flourian Muller of Foss Patents commented, "Formally this was a warning to both parties, but this is of concern only to Apple, which wants to enforce its intellectual property rights as quickly as possible, while Samsung's counterclaims are little more than an effort to slow down the process and create the appearance of mutual infringement."
The two companies started their legal battle in courts around the world over mobile dvice patent infringement accusations. Apple won a high profile victory against Samsung in August 2012, which Samsung appealing, and that led to Judge Koh considering a delay on the second case.
The second case is similar to the first in that mobile device design patents are the focus of the complaints, although this case involves newer products than the original. As part of her ruling, Judge Koh is restricting both sides to no more than 25 products each for their patent infringement claims.
While that limitation will help focus both sides on presenting just the strongest points in their respective cases, it also sets a precedent that may limit how far companies can go to protect legitimate infringement claims in court. If companies are compelled to drop claims they consider to be warranted in complex cases, they lose the ability to protect their intellectual property and win injunctions against infringing products.
The court imposed limitation in this case also puts Apple at a disadvantage because Samsung can potentially target its entire lineup while Apple will be going after only a small part of Samsung's simply because of the size of each company's product line. Judge Koh expects both sides to narrow the scope of their cases even further as the case moves forward.
"It's unclear how many patent claims and accused products she is prepared to take to the trial in this case," Mr. Muller said. "I guess Apple will ultimately have to focus on a handful of patents and maybe a dozen accused products."
Even with the additional refining as the trial process moves forward, Samsung potentially has the advantage since it can target a much larger portion of Apple product line in comparison because Apple doesn't have a lineup that's nearly as diverse.
While Samsung may have numbers on its side, it hasn't had a great track record for convincing courts that Apple is infringing on its patents. In comparison, Apple has been far more successful at asserting its claims in court, as its August 2012 win in the first case showed. In taht case, a jury ruled that Apple wasn't infringing on Samsung's patents, while at the same time ruling that Samsung infringed on a long list of Apple patents.
Many of Samsung's patent infringement claims have been tossed out of courts in other countries, too, although it has managed to score a few minor wins. Unless Samsung makes some big changes to its courtroom strategy -- which so far it doesn't seem to be doing -- Apple will likely be in a strong position to win its claims again.
Despite Apple's track record in court, it may be Samsung that wins in the end regardless of how Judge Koh rules. Samsung knows it can release products faster than the legal system moves, and its track record shows patent litigation is just business as usual.