US judge refuses to ban Samsung phones

Apple has failed in its bid to get Samsung devices banned in the US, with District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruling that the infringing products hadn’t caused enough harm to Apple’s sales.

She also denied Samsung the retrial it had been pushing for on the grounds that the jury foreman was biased. He probably hadn’t even known of Samsung’s stake in Seagate, she said, and in any case Samsung should have discovered his links with the companies earlier.

In August, a jury ruled that Samsung had infringed Apple designs, and awarded Apple damages of $1.05 billion – at which point Apple called for the sales ban.

But, ruled Koh: “It would not be equitable to deprive consumers of Samsung’s infringing phones when only limited features of the phones have been found to infringe any of Apple’s intellectual property. Though the phones do contain infringing features, they contain a far greater number of non-infringing features to which consumers would no longer have access if this Court were to issue an injunction.”

Banning the products, she said, would not be in the public interest.

Patent expert Florian Mueller says there’s no doubt at all that Apple will appeal this ruling.

“It may be unprecedented in the legal history of the United States for an injunction motion to be denied across the board despite such a large number of infringement findings (roughly half a dozen) by a jury and, especially, in light of the competitive situation between the two as well as the jury’s findings of willful infringement,” he says.

“If no injunction is ordered in such a case, it is hard to see how any patent holder could ever prevail on such a motion, and I doubt that this is what the appeals court will consider the right outcome. But the appeal will take a year or more, and in the meantime, this is a huge defensive success for Samsung’s lawyers.”

As a result, suggests Mueller, patent holders are likely to start looking overseas when launching lawsuits: in Germany, for example, sales injunctions are almost inevitable once infringement has been proven.