Apple v. Samsung — judge refuses to block Samsung smartphones from market

Having won a $1.05 billion jury verdict against Samsung, Apple sought to have the court issue an order blocking a number of Samsung smartphones from the U.S. market. Today, Judge Koh refused Apple’s request. Judge Koh noted Samsung’s claim that it has modified its phones in a way that “works around” Apple’s patents (i.e., by providing the same or similar functionality, such as “pinch-to-zoom”, but in a manner not claimed in Apple’s utility patents). And in any event, in the judge’s view, Apple had not presented sufficient evidence to prove that its patented features drove consumer demand for Samsung’s phones. Absent such evidence, Judge Koh stated, Apple’s remedies for Samsung’s patent infringement would be limited to money damages.  Here’s a nugget from her decision denying Apple’s request for an injunction:

“The phones at issue in this case contain a broad range of features, only a small fraction of which are covered by Apple’s patents. [. . .] Though Apple does have some interest in retaining certain features as exclusive to Apple, it does not follow that entire products must be forever banned from the market because they incorporate, among their myriad features, a few narrow protected functions.”

So, what happens next?  In the short term, more fighting. Apple is asking the judge to increase the jury’s damages award, while Samsung is looking to have it reduced or thrown out altogether. And still to come is a second Apple U.S. lawsuit against Samsung, aimed at some newer phones it says infringe Apple patents. And there are multiple lawsuits abroad.

In the longer term, the question is whether Apple and Samsung can make a deal, as Apple recently did with giant Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC.

But here’s the most important part — as Apple wins court victories, Samsung is winning in the marketplace. Samsung recently overtook Apple as the world’s top smartphone maker. In the third quarter of 2012, Samsung sold 55 million smartphones worldwide to Apple’s 23.6 million, which gave Samsung 32.5 percent of the market versus Apple’s 14 percent.

Has Samsung been slowed by its courtroom woes? Not yet.

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