Apple Denied Permanent Injunction Against Samsung’s Smartphones

On August 27, 2014, California Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple’s request for a permanent injunction against Samsung, which would have prevented the telecom giant from “making, selling, developing or advertising” features in its products that infringed on three of Apple’s patents. Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. et al, No. 5:12-cv-00630-LHK, slip op at 1 (N.D. Cal. August 27, 2014). In her ruling, Judge Koh cited Apple’s failure to demonstrate any irreparable harm it was likely to suffer as a result of Samsung’s exploitation of Apple’s patented features as the basis for denial. See Apple, slip op at 42.

Judge Koh stated that in order to Apple to meets its burden of establishing it suffered irreparable harm because of Samsung’s infringement, Apple had to offer evidence of harm in the form of reputational injury or lost sales, and had to establish a “causal nexus” between the harm and Samsung’s infringement of the three patents at issue. See Id. at 42.

Apple failed to offer sufficient evidence that its reputation was damaged by Samsung’s infringement or that it was harmed by lost sales specifically resulting from Samsung’s infringement. See Id. at 42. After a detailed analysis, the court concluded, “Apple’s demonstrably robust reputation [as an innovator] is less likely to be irreparably harmed by the appearance of Apple’s three patented features in Samsung’s products.” Id. at 15. Moreover, the court found that Apple was unsuccessful in demonstrating a causal nexus between the reputational harm it sustained and Samsung’s infringement of its patented features See Id. at 17.

The court also ruled that Apple was also unsuccessful in showing it suffered irreparable harm resulting from lost sales, with the company relying on a methodologically flawed survey that failed to establish that the features in its three patents “drove consumer demand for infringing Samsung products.” See Id. at 25.

This is the latest chapter in the so-called “smartphone patent wars”, which has been an ongoing patent infringement saga since 2011. Apple was awarded $120 million in damages by a jury back in May of this year, after a jury verdict awarding Apple $1.05 billion in damages in August of 2012 was partially overturned. See the full Apple v. Samsung docket here.

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