In its intellectual property world war with Apple, Samsung Electronics won a battle Thursday. A federal appeals court has overturned a preliminary injunction on sales in the U.S. of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone.
Apple had brought suit against Samsung earlier this year, alleging that the Nexus infringed eight of Apple's patents. Apple had asked the U.S. District Court of Northern California to issue a ban on the sale of the Nexus, and the court agreed to do so. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which then issued a stay of execution for the injunction, ruled Thursday that the lower court had "abused its discretion."
The appeals court sent the case back to the district for further consideration, and it cited several areas where the lower court had erred.
One infringement cited by Apple was the Quick Search Box used by the Android operating system on the Nexus, but the appeals court noted that "the release of the allegedly infringing version of the Android platform predates the release of the Galaxy Nexus." Android-maker Google, the court pointed out, is not a defendant in the case.
Apple also claimed that it would suffer harm unless the Nexus was banned -- a "causal nexus" between the phone and the harm that contained an ironic, coincidental use of the brand name in the legal phrase. The appeals court said that the District Court needed to find such a connection but did not.
Apple also pointed to the use of the "unified search feature" in Siri on the iPhone, patented by the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant. But the appeals court ruled that, "to establish a sufficiently strong causal nexus, Apple must show that consumers buy the Galaxy Nexus because it is equipped with the apparatus" protected by the patent, and not because "it can search in general" or that it has unified search. The higher court said the District Court had not determined Apple had proved this was a reason for purchasing the Nexus.
$1 Billion in Damages
After the District Court granted Apple's request for a temporary injunction in June, Samsung had appealed to the higher court the next month. Apple had to post a $95.6 million bond to cover Samsung's losses in the event that the ban was eventually removed.
Later in July, the appeals court temporarily lifted the preliminary injunction, and the stay was extended on Aug. 1 until a final decision could be issued, as it was on Thursday.
But Samsung is far from being out of the woods. In late August, for instance, it lost an unrelated patent suit by Apple in a jury trial in San Jose, Calif., and was ordered to pay $1 billion in damages. Apple had sought $2.75 billion in damages.
That jury found that Samsung had infringed on Apple utility and design patents for some of its products, that five of the six infringements were willful, and that, in response to Samsung's countersuit for $421 million, Apple had not infringed on Samsung's patents.