Apple or Samsung: Federal Circuit Panel Picks A Winner In Split Decision
Sept. 18, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — If you judge the importance of a patent case by its notoriety, it is hard to top the long-running battle between Apple and Samsung. Even my grade-school kids know about the case, and developments continue to make headlines in the mass (especially on the tech pages) media. Despite the rumors that had previously circulated about the parties looking to reach a global settlement, the initial US patent case that Apple filed against Samsung continues to generate newsworthy developments. In the latest, a divided (2-1) Federal Circuit panel decided to remand the case back down to the District Court, finding that the District Court had erred by denying Apple an injunction for the patent infringement that Samsung had previously been liable for. The majority found that the District Court applied too high a burden for Apple to meet, by requiring that Apple show that the ONLY reason customers bought the Samsung phones was because of the infringing features, when the law only requires that the infringing features contribute to the decision to purchase the product.
How important is this development? Depends on what perspective you look at it from. For Apple, this case has always seemed more about demonstrating that it was THE innovator in the smartphone space, and that any Samsung success was a result of copying Apple’s innovations. This ruling adds yet another rose to Apple’s bouquet in that regard, considering the majority opinion’s favorable descriptions of Apple as an innovator, and one that is entitled to an injunction to stop a competitor’s infringement. Economically? It is hard to say that this ruling, even if Samsung would be enjoined, will really change much in the marketplace. For one, Samsung has the option of designing around their prior infringement, and has also already come out and said that only one of its current product offerings would possibly even need the design around. The truth is that the bigger impact of this ruling, if it sticks, would be to arm patentees more generally with a better chance of winning injunctions in competitor cases.
While the economic impact on the parties in this case may be muted, the embarrassment factor for Samsung is high. Considering how little the average person knows about patents, and how little interest they have in learning about the nuances, the simple fact is that in the eyes of the general public Samsung has been “proven” to have copied Apple. And anytime you need to reassure customers, as Samsung did in response to the ruling, that you can still sell your products, it is not a great day. All that said, Samsung will surely appeal for an en banc review of this panel decision, and considering the strongly worded dissent by the Federal Circuit’s Chief Judge, this case may have a better chance of getting that review than your typical appeal. So the story will continue, but unfortunately for Samsung, it may already be too late to change the public’s mind as to the company’s “innocence” — injunction or not.
The Week(s) Ahead — Expected Events
Marathon trial against TRW Automotive continues Delaware. Expected institution decisions in Bass’ Shire and Celgene petitions.
Disclosures and Disclaimers:
Nothing in this material is intended to constitute legal or investment advice of any kind, nor is any of this material based on any non-public information of any kind. In addition to my work at Markman Advisors, I am also a name partner at a NYC-based intellectual property litigation boutique firm, Kroub Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC (www.kskiplaw.com). Markman Advisors is affiliated with a Houston-based investment management firm, Perdix Capital Management, which may have existing or potential positions relating to situations discussed in this material. Markman Advisors also provides consulting services to buy-side investors, including hedge funds and family offices, that may also have or enter into positions relating to situations discussed in this material. Questions or comments can be directed to me at email@example.com. All suggestions are welcome.