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Samsung Beats Apple in a Lesser Patent Skirmish

Samsung Beats Apple in a Lesser Patent Skirmish

The fierce legal battle between Samsung and Apple over their respective patent rights continues to wind its way through the U.S. court system. It was Samsung's turn to claim an appellate court victory this week, but it's perhaps a pyrrhic one, given that the device in question, the Galaxy Nexus, is a dated product. Also, because the injunction against it had been stayed, sales were unaffected.

By Erika Morphy E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
10/12/12 11:39 AM PT

This week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a preliminary injunction granted to Apple this summer in district court by Judge Lucy Koh. Apple had shown it would see a significant loss of sales and smartphone marketshare if a preliminary injunction were not granted, she found.

However, the appeals court stayed the injunction until it could formally rule.

Insufficient Cause

The injunction stemmed from a suit filed earlier this year, in which Apple alleged that Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone infringed eight of its patents. This appeal, however, just focused on one of the patents -- an apparatus for "unified search" that uses heuristic modules to search multiple data storage locations.

The appeals court cited the legal precedent that a plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must establish the likelihood of success on the merits, the probability of suffering irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in the plaintiff's favor, and that an injunction would be in the public interest.

Samsung challenged the district court's decision, arguing that it was abuse of discretion for the district court to find that Apple would be irreparably harmed in the absence of an injunction. Samsung also argued that Apple did not sufficiently establish a link between the harm it allegedly suffered and the infringing conduct. The appeals court said the district court erred when it determined that Apple established a sufficient causal nexus.

The appeals court sent the case back to Koh for reconsideration.

A Court-by-Court Battle

The patent under scrutiny in this appeal was not included in the trial in which Apple won a sweeping victory against Samsung and was awarded US$1.05 billion in damages. Samsung has vowed to appeal that case -- adding to the numerous cases pending in both the U.S. and foreign legal systems.

It is difficult to keep track of the many cases that are pending throughout the world between the two companies -- and perhaps even more difficult to determine if there is a larger strategy behind each individual action.

"My guess is yes, someone is coordinating these cases, deciding which patent to file suit about in which court," Christopher M. Collins, a partner with Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, told the E-Commerce Times.

Some of the cases are no doubt brought forward for jurisdictional purposes, he noted, while some might be key to the pursuit of an overall legal strategy.

"In some of these cases," said Collins, "they are definitely choosing courts for specific reasons."

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