In one of the most prominent patent disputes between smartphone makers, a federal judge this month has given both Apple and Samsung reason to celebrate. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh (Northern District of California) substantially reduced Apple’s damages award stemming from its patent victory over Samsung last summer. To Samsung’s dismay, however, Judge Koh allowed Apple’s new patent case against the South Korean company to go forward, rather than staying the case while the first case is decided on appeal.
Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., is an action in which Apple accused Samsung of infringing on seven of its patents, including both utility and design patents. A San Jose jury last summer found Samsung guilty of infringing six of the patents, five of them willfully, which covered touchscreen technology, the original exterior design of the iPhone and the way icons are displayed on the iPhone screen. The jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages, calculated as the sum of damages for each infringing Samsung product. On March 1, 2013, Judge Koh overturned this award for about half of the products at issue in the case. The jury’s award for certain products that infringed Apple’s utility patents was based on Samsung’s profits, which is an impermissible type of compensation for utility patent infringement. Thus, Judge Koh reduced the award to $598.9 million, and ordered a new trial to determine the proper amount owed to Apple for the products for which damages were reduced.
Judge Koh’s decision to reduce Apple’s damages award could lead to an eventual settlement between the two smartphone makers, as the products involved in the lawsuit are no longer relevant to either side. The patent battle between them is far from over though, as Judge Koh on March 8, 2013 allowed a new lawsuit filed by Apple against Samsung to proceed, despite Samsung’s request to stay the new lawsuit while the first case is decided on appeal. The new lawsuit involves newer products such as Apple’s iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S III. Apple argued a delay of this lawsuit would cause it irreparable prejudice and likely a long-term market share loss, as it seeks to bar Samsung’s new products. The new lawsuit is scheduled for trial in 2014. Although Judge Koh did not stay the case, she did require both parties to significantly streamline the issues raised as the case proceeds.