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The ruling text found below shows this is a mixed victory at best for Samsung, albeit in a case of waning importance

A lawsuit targeting Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935first and second generation Galaxy S smartphones has passed a crucial milestone, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CA-FC) weighing in on whether the 2012 jury verdict in a pivotal case brought by Apple, Inc. (AAPL) was valid.  Ultimately the district court has dealt a mixed ruling.  While it upheld more than half of the damages awarded to Apple, it also ordered the reassessment of design-related damages, a decision which could reduce the amount Samsung has to pay by as much as a third.

I. Blast From the Past -- Apple v. Samsung (2012 Edition)

Apple alleged that Samsung had "slavishly copied" both its patented smartphone technologies and its patented designs to boost the Galaxy S series.  Samsung countersued with similar claims.  The case was heard by jury in mid-2012 at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Calif. (USDC-CAND), with federal Judge Lucy Haeran Koh presiding over the courtroom.  Some Samsung supporters questioned the choice of venue as the court was located in San Jose, Calif. a 15 minute drive from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Samsung supporters cynicism was set to only grow, when the the jury reach a verdict in Aug. 2012 that played out exclusively in Apple's favor.  The jury ruled that Samsung infringed, but Apple did not.  The ruling which covered most of the models Apple targeted, initially saw a damages total of $1.05B USD.

Samsung GSII
Samsung's GSII was among its high-volume devices that were targeted successfully in Apple's first lawsuit in U.S. federal court against it. 

But even early, it was clear that this seeming resounding victory for Apple was not quite as decisive as it might seem.  Part damages, it turned out, were miscalculated.  A recalculation placed them initially at $600M USD.  Judge Koh also ruled that Samsung's infringement wasn't willful, and thus declined Apple's request to punitively triple the damages.  Samsung had its defeats as well; namely, it was rebuffed in its attempts to question the choice of jurors (as at least one juror had a family member who was a major Apple shareholder who might profit from the decision).

It's important to add that in the nearly three years since the initial ruling, Judge Koh refused to ban any of the more than dozen Samsung smartphone variants targeted by Apple.  By 2014, however, virtually all of the targeted models were no longer in production.

Judge Koh
Judge Koh presided over a very favorable ruling for Apple in the 2012 federal court case, but at times limited the scope of its win. [Image Source: IB Times]

But while the products had exited the market, the case still lingered in the courts.  Ultimately the damages shifted yet again when the jury was called back to rule on damages relating to damages slashed from the original total.  Those damages related to claims asserted against 14 Samsung products, which had been miscalculated due to error in dates presented in the initial case.  Ultimately the jury ruled to reduce the inital total of $450M to $290M USD, which left the total damages at $890M USD.  That amount had apparently shifted since on other technicalities, to the current total of $930M USD -- just a little over a tenth of a billion off its inital total.

II. Another Twist

There it stood until this week when a three judge panel at the federal Appeal Court in Washington D.C. ruled on Samsung's appeal.

The appeals court upheld the $548M USD of the verdict relating to Apple's technology patents.  That's roughly amount equates to roughly 60 percent of the final jury-awarded damages.  The ruling, which I reposted below, was obtained in its entirety from the Circuit Court of Appeals:

Apple vs Samsung CAFC Ruling (5-18-2015) by Jason Mick



As you can see in the closing few pages, the Appeals Court ruled against Samsung on most of its appeals claims.  But Samsung did score one potentially important win of sorts.  In a crucial modification the Appeals court ruled that Apple's "trade dress" -- asserted trade patents that covered details such as icon layout, case shape, and button placement -- could not be broadly protected and had been presented in an invalid manner in the case.

In effect the court sided with Samsung's lawyers who argued such protection was inappropriate as the patented designs related to the function of the device and not merely the design.  The court concluded that allowing Apple to overlap its design trade dress with technical features would allow Apple to file a series of design patents to effectively lock up technical features eternally -- circumventing the traditional expiration period of utility patents.

Thus the court ordered the San Jose federal jury to reconvene a third time, this time to reasses whether Samsung infringed on a more narrow design-exclusive set of features in the trade dress patents (U.S. Design Patent No. D618,677 and D593,087) which it was initially found to infringe upon.

III. Still A Win for Apple?

It's important to note the case is not over quite yet.  While the targeted portion of damages will assuredly be reduced from its initial total of $382M USD, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be reduced to zero.  Ultimately a total of $152M USD or less would be significant as it would mean the damages had been reduced by a third or more from their initial amount.  We'll have to wait and see what number the jury decides on, though.

Law Professor Brian Love of the University of Santa Clara, argues this is still a win for Apple.  He states to Reuters that the decision still respects many crucial aspects the overall design claims presented by Apple in its trade dress:

They made this argument from the beginning of the case that they were sort of the true innovators in the smartphone world, and that although a lot of this technology existed in the past, they came up with very simple, elegant and easy-to-use design that took the smartphone to the next level.  To the extent that it was protected, it was protected by these design patents.

Apple, too, spun this as a win, remarking to Reuters in a brief statement:

This is a victory for design and those who respect it.

Now comes the waiting game to see what the jury says.  That decision could determine exactly how much of a "win" this truly is for Apple.

Samsung v. Apple
Samsung and Apple effectively tied each other in a followup jury case which was ruled upon in 2014.
[Image Source: Reuters]

Ultimately, whatever the decision the case has already been diminished somewhat by the jury verdict in a second trial in which the two sides saw a virtual draw from the perspect of guilt, with the jury ruling that both Samsung and Apple infringed upon each others' patented technology.  Ultimately the damages in that second case favored Apple due to the kind of patent it was asserting and how many claims of infringement it asserted at trial.  Not only did that mean Apple won a far smaller damages total of ~$120M USD, it also has put pressure on both companies to settle their lengthy patent dispute.

A third jury trial is theoretically in the works covering newer patents, but it's unclear whether that case will see its day in court.  After what amounted to a draw in the second U.S. federal court trial, Apple and Samsung opted to drop their international patent lawsuits against each other, leaving only the pending U.S. litigation.  While they have yet to announced officially any sort of licensing agreement, things appear to be headed to that inevitable outcome.  In terms of the eventual settlement deal things are looking relatively good for Samsung, who with this latest ruling continues to gain momentum in court, after bemoaning Apple's early wins.

Sources: CAFC Ruling [Scribd], Reuters





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