An appeals court ruling in favor of Apple Inc. could force Samsung Electronics Co. to stop incorporating certain features in its devices. The latest ruling adds another victory for Apple in its ongoing smartphone battle with its biggest rival.
While Apple had won an initial trial in May 2014, wherein it was ruled that Samsung had infringed three of Apple’s patents – the slide-to-unlock, autocorrect and data detection features, as reported by NBC News – Samsung wasn’t forced to change its design features, but only faced monetary damages.
“This ruling reinvigorates patent holders in keeping companies off the market,” Michael Carrier, Rutgers University law professor, said. “Apple now has a weapon it can use in two ways: in future litigation with Samsung and others, and in settlement negotiations.”
The ruling might have been in favor of Apple, but it will not affect Samsung much. The Galaxy 3, the most recent device to be affected by the injunction, was released in 2012; its popularity has been overshadowed by newer phones. The Galaxy 6 remains unaffected by Thursday’s ruling.
“It’s an important precedent for Apple and any company that seeks to protect product differentiation,” Nick Rodelli, who heads CFRA Legal Edge, a New York-based forensic accounting and legal research firm, said, as reported by Bloomberg. “This broadens their moat here in the U.S. and makes it more difficult for new entrants to come into the U.S. market and rip off Apple’s features.”
The ruling said that Apple’s injunction is narrow because it does not seek Samsung to stop selling its products, but that its Korean rival can eliminate the patent features without withdrawing its devices. “Apple does not seek to enjoin the sale of lifesaving drugs, but to prevent Samsung from profiting from the unauthorized use of infringing features in its cellphones and tablets,” the court said.
Samsung, on the other hand, is planning on appealing the ruling along with the decision that it infringed Apple’s patents, as reported by Edgadget. “The public generally does not benefit when that competition comes at the expense of a patentee’s investment-backed property right,” Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote. “This is not a case where the public would be deprived of Samsung’s products. Apple does not seek to enjoin the sale of lifesaving drugs, but to prevent Samsung from profiting from the unauthorized use of infringing features in its cellphones and tablets.”
Samsung saw support from Google Inc., HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc. and Rackspace Hosting Inc. who claimed that awarding Apple a victory could give the patent owner the freedom “to unfairly leverage its patent for competitive gain.”
“We want to reassure our millions of loyal customers that all of our flagship smartphones, which are wanted and loved by American consumers, will remain for sale and available for customer service support in the U.S.,” Danielle Meister Cohen, a Samsung spokeswoman, said.
Michael Risch, a professor of law at Villanova University School of Law, said that the impact of the latest ruling will not hurt Samsung much. The company has either designed its products around the features involved in the case or has forsaken them entirely, he said. In the Apple-Samsung patent wars, “Apple has won every round,” he said. “But the reality is it hasn’t actually slowed Samsung down.”
An Apple spokesman said that “courts around the world” have found that Samsung “willfully stole our ideas and copied our products.”
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