updated 02:57 am EDT, Thu July 5, 2012
Time limits on presentations force winnowing
Late yesterday, Apple and Samsung presented a revised list of patents from each company challenging the other, reflecting a further narrowing of claims that may move Federal District Judge Lucy Koh to declare the case ready to go to trial, currently scheduled for the end of July. Despite Apple's interest in moving the trial forward, it may decide to move for a sales injunction on US import of Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone.
Judge Koh has systematically forced both parties to focus their case on the very core of their claims, both through enforcing strict time and exhibit limits on both companies as well as declaring summary judgements and other pre-trial rulings on some of the disputed patents. Prior to the new winnowing, Apple had 12 patents it was asserting against Samsung, while the South Korean electronics giant was down to six following a ruling that Apple had not infringed on one Samsung patent. Samsung was also denied summary judgements on all of Apple's patents, rendering them valid for trial.
The patent Apple chose to drop in the latest round was a "multipoint touchscreen" patent similar to one that was just declared invalid in a UK courtroom in a case against HTC. As patent case analyst Florian Mueller notes, Apple was only asserting one claim from it, and withdrew it without prejudice (allowing it to be re-asserted in possible future cases). If the US patent is very closely related to now-invalidated European patent, Apple's move would be seen as very prescient -- the chances of succeeding on it having been now proven to be low.
The iPhone maker also decided to drop "trade dress" claims against the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, an earlier and smaller model than the Galaxy Tab 10.1 the company recently won a US sales injunction over, in part due to "trade dress" similarities. Apple also declared that "is not accusing the F700 (slider smartphone) of infringing on Apple's trade dress," even though it recently added a list of new Samsung products as "likely infringing" devices.
Samsung, for its part, did not drop any further patents but did reduce the number of claims it is making against Apple in its counter suit from 15 to 9, the first time the company has voluntarily made a substantive concession in this case. Judge Koh will likely make a determination if the latest winnowing is sufficient later this week.
The biggest question still remaining before the trial is if Apple will move now to obtain a sales injunction against Samsung's Galaxy S III. Apple has obtained to sales injunctions against Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone and the aforementioned Galaxy Tab 10.1, mostly on the basis of a "unified search" patent (Siri) and "data tapping" patent Apple holds that allows phone numbers and other forms of information to be linked to other applications and actions, such as calling by simply tapping the number.
As the court has found that Samsung is likely to be infringing the patents in those two products, by extension all other Samsung products that use the techniques are also infringing and could be barred from sale in the US. Apple would almost certainly be granted at least a temporary sales injunction if it asked for one on the Galaxy S III, likely to become Samsung's most popular smartphone model, but hasn't indicated whether it will or not.
However, Judge Koh warned Apple that if it requested another sales injunction, the appeal process would force her to delay the trial even further, which Apple may not want to do. She is also expected to rule soon on the appeal of the Galaxy Nexus injunction, but is likely to keep the ban in place as she did with the Galaxy Tab 10.1. [via Florian Mueller]