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The Latest Apple-Samsung Ruling Is A Mixed Bag

Publication Date: 
November 19, 2013
Source: 
Business Week
Author: 
Dimitra Kessenides

Professor Mark Lemley comments on the re-trying of a patent legislation case between Apple and Samsung for Business Week. 

An appellate court decision has opened the way for Apple (AAPL) to again pursue a ban on some Samsung Electronics (005930:KS) mobile devices found to infringe Apple patents. But the ruling is a mixed bag for Apple, experts say, and will place a bigger burden on parties seeking injunctive relief in patent disputes in the future.

A three-judge federal appellate panel issued the unanimous decision (PDF) on Monday. The court said U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh erred last fall in rejecting Apple’s attempt to ban Samsung products found to infringe three utility patents covering certain iPhone and iPad features. Koh ruled that Apple failed to prove it suffered irreparable harm from Samsung’s infringement, a requirement for injunctive relief. The panel upheld a portion of the earlier ruling, however, denying an injunction against Samsung devices found to infringe design patents.

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That’s a difficult test, say Landers and Stanford University law professor and IP expert Mark Lemley. “It’s not obvious the reconsideration will lead to a different result,” Lemley says. And with the latest decision having established that the test requires a nexus between a patent and the sale of products, the ruling makes it harder for any patent holders to win injunctive relief. “It’s not going to cause people not to ask for [an injunction], but it’s going to make it less likely that they’ll actually get it,” Lemley says.

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Given the timing, Lemley says, Monday’s appellate ruling says more about the interrelationship between the law and a fast-moving business such as smartphones. “[The case] is moving at the pace you’d expect it to move, and technology is just leaping past it, and so is the market,” he says. “Even if you can imagine a court applying an injunction on remand, it isn’t going to change the fundamentals of the market.”