Recent Developments in the Apple-Samsung Dispute over iPhone Patents

By Nicole Daniel

A number of developments have occurred in Apple’s patent and antitrust case against Samsung since May, when the Federal Circuit affirmed the awards of at least $548 million in damages.

In August, the Federal Circuit not only denied Samsung’s request for an en banc hearing, it also denied Samsung’s request that the appeals court stay its mandate. In the latter request Samsung cited its pending petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court.

Thereby the Federal Circuit essentially denied Samsung’s requests to delay the enforcement of the May ruling concerning Apple’s win over Samsung’s copying of the iPhone. Accordingly the remanded parts of the decision, which regard the Apple’s trade dress, will soon be back in district court.

In September Apple urged US District Judge Lucy Koh to enter an immediate judgment based on the Federal Circuit’s mandate since the Federal Circuit has settled all liability issues in the case. Only a decision on the amount of damages remains. The judgment Apple wants shall include a partial final judgment amounting to $548 million in damages from Samsung. Apple also wants about $180 million in supplemental damages and $1.9 million in costs before the retrial starts. It comes as no surprise that Samsung disagreed with Apple’s proposed approach.

A few days later, on 17 September 2015, the Federal Circuit vacated Judge Koh’s order denying Apple’s request for a permanent injunction against the infringing features in smartphones and tablets by Samsung. In short, in a 2-1 decision the court held that Apple properly established that irreparable harm would be caused by Samsung’s continued infringement.

There was indeed a causal nexus between Samsung’s patent infringement and Apple’s lost sales. To prove a causal nexus some connection between the patented features and demand for the infringing products has to be shown. Therefore it was enough that the patented features were related to the infringement and also relevant to customers when examining which phone to purchase. There was no need for Apple to establish that these patented features were the reason why customers chose Samsung phones over Apple phones.

On 18 September 2015 Judge Koh entered partial final judgement of $548 million against Samsung and scheduled the start of the final trial for 28 March 2016.

The final trial will be a damages-only retrial for the five Samsung smartphones models for which the Federal Circuit vacated trade dress damages in its May ruling. Accordingly the sole issue will be to determine what damages Samsung will have to pay for patent infringement on these smartphones models.

Apple commented that it will also seek the aforementioned $180 million in supplemental damages for Samsung’s continued infringement during the period between the August 2012 verdict and September 2013, when it stopped selling the infringing models.

Another relevant issue in this regard is the ‘915 patent. Samsung states that Apple should not be allowed to seek supplemental damages for this patent since the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2014 invalidated that patent because of prior art. Samsung wants to stay the retrial during the US Patent and Trademark Office’s re-examination of this patent and the connected appeals are ongoing. Judge Koh said she was “completely unconvinced” by Samsung’s motions to stay the case.