updated 11:25 pm EST, Thu February 21, 2013
New trial over new set of disputed patents to start next year
The US federal judge who has been facilitating the ongoing US-based battle between Samsung and Apple over various patents, Judge Lucy Koh, has again taken a familiar path by ordering the two parties to narrow down the claims against each other. In a repeat of the run-up to the first patent trial, which Apple won handily but which is currently under appeal, Koh limited to the parties to no more than 25 patent claims and 25 products. Her rationale for the limitations was that both parties should know by now what claims are the strongest.
In the first trial between the two tech giants, Apple and Samsung accused each other of infringing on various software and design patents. In August, a jury awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages and sided with the iPhone maker on nearly every point, while throwing out every single one of Samsung's counterclaims and awarding the company nothing. The new trial focuses on current products from both companies, including Samsung's Galaxy S III and Apple's iPhone 5.
While that verdict is in the process of being appealed, Koh has issued several rulings on post-trial motions and business. A second trial that revolves around a different set of patent claims and counter-claims is scheduled for 2014, and Judge Koh will again preside. As before, she is asking both Samsung and Apple to "focus and streamline" their cases, according to Bloomberg, because of the risk that unlimited claims and product ban requests will render the case too complex to litigate. Koh told the companies that "we'll keep narrowing and narrowing," a clear hint that more simplifying of the case should be expected.
The case may in fact be suspended until an appeals court can issue a ruling on a matter arising out of the first trial, since it could have an impact on the new patent trial. Apple is appealing both Judge Koh's refusal to issue a sales injunction against some of Samsung's infringing products, as well as her methodology in determining whether a ban is justified -- a criteria so difficult to achieve that it would effectively make any sales bans against any infringing products impossible, Apple argues.
Before and during the first patent trial, Koh repeatedly ordered the two tech giants to whittle down the number of claims, and later imposed hard limits on the number of witnesses and the amount of time they could testify. The new limits send a clear signal that Judge Koh is likely to keep the second trial -- when it finally gets underway -- on a tight leash. In her newest ruling, she pointed out that the two parties should already know which points in their respective cases are the strongest, noting that "[Apple and Samsung] have already been litigating this thing for a year."
Apple has told the court it opposes the notion of suspending progress on the second trial, arguing that appeals of first-trial rulings have little overlap to the matters focused on in the second trial. Samsung has said it disagrees, claiming there is "substantial" overlap -- a position the judge seems to be leaning toward -- and remaining consistent with its first-trial strategy of trying to stretch out proceedings as long as possible.