In a ruling delivered today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has given Apple another chance at halting sales of Samsung smartphones that infringe on its patents. The court has vacated District Court Judge Lucy Koh's earlier denial of Apple’s request for a permanent injunction against 26 Samsung products found by a jury to infringe in the monumental 2012 trial. That means Cupertino's lawyers will have another chance at permanently ending sales of those devices in the long-running legal showdown.
The court has sent the issue back to Judge Koh with respect to Apple's technical utility patents, where she will have to apply a new standard. Rather than showing that the patented features were the "sole" reason for driving sales of the products — a requirement the court found to be too strict — Apple will only have to show "some connection between the patented feature and demand for Samsung's products." The court went on to hold that an injunction might be warranted if the evidence shows "that the inclusion of a patented feature makes a product significantly more desirable," or that "the absence of a patented feature would make a product significantly less desirable." Now we'll have to see what "significantly" means. Not the primary reason, not a trivial reason, but something in between?
Apple need only show "some" connection between infringement and product demand
On appeal, Apple had asked the court to remove any requirement that it had to show that the patented feature, and therefore the infringement, drove Samsung's sales of a product. In denying the injunctions, Judge Koh had ruled that Apple was required to demonstrate that the patented features were the exclusive driver of sales. The appeals court landed on the middle ground. Koh's denial of a permanent injunction against Samsung for infringing Apple's design patents was upheld.
Obviously, today's ruling sets a lower threshold for Apple to overcome in seeking product bans. While the products at issue in this case are largely obsolete, the importance of today's ruling is really in the new standard set by the court. This will become a major focal point in Apple's attempts to seek product bans in the second trial between the companies set to begin next spring. Settlement, anyone?
Matt Macari contributed to this report.