updated 06:43 pm EDT, Thu April 11, 2013
Apple prevails in six constructions, loses one SEP term buildout
In pre-trial claim construction court filings for the 2014 Apple vs. Samsung trial, Apple has emerged victorious in all but one patent claim. Late Wednesday, Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a claim construction order relating to seven of the patents involved in the next omnibus smartphone patent trial. While the order addresses how terms are used and little else, the background information provided by the claim construction can color how the rest of the trial proceeds.
In the four patents being asserted by Apple, the court ruled that Apple's perspective on the claim construction was appropriate for trial. Samsung attempted to narrow the scope of the claims Apple was making in order to be able to dispute infringement, but all were rejected by the judge as not supported by the extant patent specifications or other evidence.
Two patents being asserted by Samsung were successfully narrowed by Apple. According to patent analyst Florian Mueller, "Samsung wanted the term 'zone-specific storage and interface device' to be interpreted so broadly that it would even relate to mobile devices. Apple originally proposed a requirement that the device be 'fixed in a room, or similar bounded location.' The court agreed with Apple's proposed requirement, just not with its terminology -- and Apple then agreed that the court's proposed wording ('resides') or the court's alternative suggestion 'remains' would be better choices." The second patent asserted by Samsung had one limitation suggested by Apple rejected by the court, but a few others were added -- resulting in Apple having to only prove one limitation of the patent is not practiced, as opposed to meeting all conditions, to be held blameless of infringement.
Samsung prevailed on one standards-essential patent construction. Apple wanted to add a limitation to the patent, in essence saying that the patent requires something not be present for the patent to be valid, but failed. However, as the patent is subject to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing, the damages will be limited even if Apple is found to be infringing, and no sales injunction will be applied.
Mueller called today's rulings a "near-complete victory for Apple and near-complete defeat for Samsung" and adds that "Apple is on the winning track -- to a near-complete extent that is rarely seen in disputes involving two players of this nature and stature, but less surprising when considering that one of the two parties has already been found to have deliberately copied inventions made by the other." He also suggested that Samsung would be wise to ask the court to drop its two patents from the trial that Apple "won" the claim construction for, but doesn't envision Samsung reducing the scope of the trial without concessions from Apple.