Judge Koh Denies Samsung Request to Invalidate Apple Patents

Federal Judge Lucy Koh has denied a motion from Samsung to invalidate two Apple patents in the ongoing infringement legal battle between the two companies. Samsung was ruled to have infringed on the two patents and had hoped it could use new Supreme Court case law to show the concepts were simply digital representations of actions we take in the physical world.

Judge refuses to invalidate Apple patents in legal fight with SamsungJudge refuses to invalidate Apple patents in legal fight with Samsung

The patents in question describe the iPhone's slide to unlock ('721) and unified search ('959) features, both of which Samsung was ruled to infringe on in the 2012 trial where Apple was awarded over US$900 million in damages, their second trial this year where the iPhone and iPad maker won about $120 million.

Samsung's justification for requesting the two patents be ruled invalid stemmed from the Alice v CLS Banks Supreme Court ruling that said software-based concepts that have real world parallels, like flipping a switch to turn on a light, can't be patented.

The ruling is good news for Apple, but not great news because Judge's Koh's reasoning for denying Samsung's motion had little to do with the validity of the patents.

"The decision is based entirely on a procedural question," said Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. "Judge Koh held that (as Apple had argued) Samsung had not preserved its original invalidity defense under § 101 and it was now, in Judge Koh's opinion, too late to raise the issue of abstract subject matter."

Judge Koh's denial doesn't, however, leave Samsung dead in the water -- at least not yet. The US Patent and Trademark Office recently issued a preliminary ruling that Apple's autocomplete patent ('172) isn't valid, and if that decision holds, the electronics maker could use it in an appeal to at least partially overturn the ruling in the second patent infringement case.

The USPTO preliminary ruling must still go through a review process and could be shot down, and Apple can file an appeal, too, should the decision be upheld.

Judge Koh's basis for denying Samsung's motion in the second patent infringement trial also sidesteps Samsung's claim that the two patents in question aren't valid because she focused on a procedural argument instead. That leaves the door open for Samsung to raise the argument again in future cases.