updated 09:52 pm EDT, Fri June 29, 2012
Second legal victory in one day in same court
Hot on the heels of a preliminary injunction barring US sales of Samsung's and Google's flagship phone the Galaxy Nexus and an earlier injunction against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 Android tablet, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh also cleared Apple of a Samsung charge of infringement of a UTMS patent. The ruling was a victory for Apple, as well as for its position that FRAND-eligible patents shouldn't be used as legal weapons.
Apple's win was limited -- it is still facing charges of infringement on a total of (now) six other patents Samsung is asserting in a case that is scheduled to go to trial at the end of July. Apple had made motions to invalidate another two of the patents Samsung claims Apple is infringing by arguing that they were "indefinite" (meaning overly broad and vague), but Judge Koh denied Apple's motion. She indicated that Apple's concerns had merit but could be addressed at the trial without throwing them out entirely. The full ruling is seen below.
Patent case analyst Florian Mueller believes that the ruling foreshadows further narrowing of claims, possibly on both sides. The ruling in Apple's favor means that if the judge asks for more narrowing on the Samsung side, they have little choice but to comply. For its part, Samsung has asked for summary judgements on all of Apple's claims of infringement, and Mueller believes Koh will rule on that soon -- and may give Samsung summary judgements on some of the Apple claims.
The ruling and injunctions bode poorly for Samsung's chances at the forthcoming trial -- almost all of the claims it is asserting are based on standards-essential FRAND patents, which recent US judges at both the federal and ITC level, including Judge Koh, have routinely said should not be eligible for injunctive relief. In a separate case, Judge Richard A. Posner lambasted Motorola for attempting to assert a standards-essential patent for UTMS as its one counter-claim against Apple, which may close the door on any attempt by Samsung to make the same claim in future cases.
In related news, the FTC has ordered an investigation into the abuse of FRAND patents by Motorola (and thus Google) which could expand into actions by companies like Samsung. Motorola and Google are also being similarly investigated for FRAND abuse by the European Commission.