As part of a host of post-trial rulings, Judge Lucy Koh ruled Tuesday that Samsung did not willfully infringe on Apple patents, effectively overturning the jury on that issue and thereby limiting Apple’s ability to seek additional damages beyond the $1.05 billion it was initially awarded in the patent infringement suit between the two companies this past summer. Five Apple patents that Samsung was found to have willfully infringed were at issue in the ruling, as reported by FOSS Patents.
When judging the willfulness of a patent infringement claim, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant infringed both objectively and subjectively. Objectively willful infringement means that a theoretically objective party with knowledge of all of the patents and facts surrounding them would determine that there was infringement by the defendant. This evaluation is a matter of law that only a judge can rule on.
Subjectively willful infringement considers whether the actual parties to the litigation knew the facts at issue, or whether these facts were so obvious that they should have known. This factor is ruled on by a jury, but can also be overturned by a judge.
When the jury rendered its verdict on August 24, 2012, it found that Samsung had willfully infringed on three of Apple’s multitouch patents and two design patents. In Judge Koh’s ruling, however, she found that Apple’s case and the facts presented at trial did not prove objectively willful infringement.
In each case, Samsung either presented evidence that it had a reasonable belief that Apple’s patents were invalid, or that the final infringement ruling was so close that an objective analysis beforehand could not lead one to believe with certainty that there was infringement.
As a result, Judge Koh changed the nature of the jury’s verdict of subjectively willful infringement without technically overruling it. As mentioned above, both subjective and objective willfulness must be shown, and without an agreement from Judge Koh on the objective component, the jury’s subjective ruling is meaningless. “If Samsung had an objectively reasonable defense to infringement, its infringement cannot be said to be objectively willful,” Judge Koh stated in her ruling.
It should be noted that Judge Koh’s ruling does not change the overall verdict of infringement. Although the damages award could change before everything is finally settled, as of today Samsung is still liable for the $1.05 billion in damages even if its actions on key patents were not willful.
Issues not addressed by the court Tuesday include requests by both sides for modifications to the judgement amount. Judge Koh has yet to rule on Samsung’s motion to reduce the damages award by up to $600 million and, following Tuesday’s rulings, Apple will likely soon move for the court to force Samsung to pay royalties on the infringed patents. As explained by FOSS Patents, the absence of a finding of willfulness does not entitle Samsung to “a freebie.”
Beyond those motions, both sides will inevitably appeal final rulings in part or in their entirety, meaning that it will be quite a while before all matters of this patent suit are settled.