updated 10:22 pm EDT, Fri April 25, 2014
Federal court ruling on Apple's 'data detectors' patent could complicate case
A ruling in a completely different Federal court regarding one of Apple's patents at issue in the current Apple-Samsung patent trial will require extra testimony from experts on Monday, after both sides rested their evidence cases on Friday. Apple's "data detector" patent, and specifically the portion of it that deals with a "server analyzer" to interpret user actions, was reinstated in a different case against Motorola, resulting in a different interpretation of what that means, which will need to be explained to the jury.
Automatic link detection example of '647 patent
In brief, the Federal Circuit court has affirmed Judge Richard Posner's original "claim construction" on parts of the '647 "data detectors" patent, which enabled the iPhone to understand phone numbers, dates and other information in the same way a URL in a message or email can be linked to opening a web browser to that address, only with the phone application, the calendar and so on. While the judicial panels' ruling overall is likely to be seen as a win for Apple, this particular portion could cost it dearly in the current trial.
In the Apple-Samsung case, Apple has asked the jury to assign damages of $12.49 per infringing device to this one patent -- the total includes factors such as lost profits, disincentives to buy an iPhone and other elements -- but in the Motorola case just reinstated, the judge found that the patent was fairly easy to work around, and thought even Apple's claim (in that case) of 60 cents per infringing unit (against Motorola) was too high.
Apple must now defend its "asking price" to the jury, which may have difficulty understanding that as the '647 patent is not a "standards-essential" type patent, Apple was (and still is) free not to license it to anyone, or ask whatever it thinks it can get for it, which may vary from company to company. Like most people, the jury is likely to believe what Samsung will argue: that the fact that Apple asked for 60 cents per unit for it from another company indicates a vindictive attack on a competitor, and supports its contention that Apple's damages request is "grossly exaggerated."
Conceivably, the jury could thus reduce Apple's $2.191 billion damages award -- assuming it followed the pattern of the previous jury and gave Apple almost all of what it asks for -- by as much as a third. However, Apple and Samsung's experts in this trial have disagreed on what is meant by an "analyzer server," the part of the patent that interprets the text and determines if it is a recognized linkable sequence or not.
Samsung has said its implementation didn't infringe Apple's patent because its version handled the detection locally -- but Posner's interpretation also interprets Apple's patent as performing the analysis on the iPhone itself. So a possible outcome on this portion of the trial might be that the jury still finds that Samsung did infringe the patent, but then awards much lower damages on it than Apple was originally asking for. If, on the other hand, the jury finds that Samsung didn't infringe Apple's '647 patent, then the Federal ruling on the patent is moot in this case.
After much discussion and deliberation on Friday, Judge Lucy Koh (who is overseeing the current Apple-Samsung trial, and who has consistently resisted using Posner's claim construction because the case was dismissed) decided to allow some short additional testimony from expert witnesses on both sides to explain the ruling and its implications on the '647 patent to the jury. Each side will be granted 60 minutes only, which may allow jury instructions in the case to begin later Monday as originally planned -- but at the end of Friday's session, Judge Koh expected jury instructions to slip to Tuesday.