Samsung, Apple Kick Off Round Eleventy in Patent Fight

Apple and Samsung last week squared off again in court over their long-running patent dispute.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard Samsung’s appeal of the US$930 million in damages a district court awarded to Apple for patent infringement, following a trial in 2012 and a retrial in 2013.

Here’s how tired the two parties are of the battle: Apple dropped its cross-appeal and is limiting its defense to the verdict for damages. The two earlier this year agreed to stop waging their patent wars outside the U.S.

“Samsung never wanted this fight,” said Florian Mueller, principal at Fosspatents.

“It was Apple’s choice to start it, and [Apple’s] struggling to find a graceful exit,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

What Dogs of War Were Unleashed

“Many of the patents Apple claims Samsung infringed on are related to software features such as universal search, slide to unlock, and autocorrect,” said Todd Day, mobile and wireless communications senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

For its part, Samsung filed counterclaims accusing Apple of “infringing on patents involving camera and folder organization, as well as video transmission functionality, which involves Apple’s FaceTime,” Day told the E-Commerce Times.

The two “are very much fighting just to fight,” he said.

However, “there are also some innovations that are worth fighting for — if for nothing more than to set a precedent in the space,” Day remarked.

Both sides have strong support. Twenty-seven law professors filed an amicus curiae brief backing Samsung, while design professionals and various other parties filed amicus curiae briefs supporting Apple.

By now, “it’s become more of a public relations war between the market’s two biggest [players],” Day suggested. “Apple wants to win publicly, if for nothing more than to show the customer base that they have more innovative products.”

Who’s Got What – an Update

Apple remains strong, posting its largest third-quarter shipment volume ever, according to IDC’s figures. The launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus helped, but there was sustained demand for the older iPhone 5s and 5c models, which comprised the bulk of orders for the quarter.

Samsung needs to make a stand to stem its losses. Although it remained the clear leader in the worldwide smartphone market in Q3, competition and cooling demand for its high-end devices made it the only one of the top five smartphone vendors to see shipments decline year over year for the period, IDC said.

More Trouble on the Way?

The appeal could lead to yet another trial, Mueller warned, because Samsung has raised some “very fundamental” issues regarding infringements of trade dress and design rights, and related remedies.

Those questions “are at the heart of where the rights of a right holder end and those of a competitor begin,” Mueller explained. “If everyone could obtain a disgorgement of all of an alleged infringer’s profits based on a single design patent, some companies might have to pay 10 times their profits to design patent holders.”

In other words, IP holders can’t make extortionate demands for redress.

Meanwhile, Apple is appealing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s invalidation of its pinch-to-zoom patent, and the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board, which held a hearing last month, is expected to issue a ruling soon.

If its ruling should uphold the USPTO’s rejection of Apple’s patent claim, and if the federal appeals court should agree with Samsung that the district court previously should have held that patent invalid, then another retrial could be necessary.

The pinch-to-zoom patent “was Apple’s relatively most valuable software, or non-design patent in the first Samsung case,” Mueller pointed out. “A reversal concerning this patent would require a near-complete damages retrial.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

1 Comment

  • Personally, I think this is incredibly stupid and a waste of people’s time and money. As it said in the article they are fighting just to fight. When it comes down to it, people are going to buy a phone that is user friendly. And whoever designs the most user friendly phone is going to win at the end of the day!

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