updated 08:09 pm EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
Samsung guilty on two key patents, avoids serious damages
A jury comprised largely of self-described "non-technical" users of modern technology has delivered a mixed verdict in the latest Apple-Samsung patent trial, with Samsung found not guilty of infringing two of Apple's five contested patents, guilty as charged of copying Apple's "data detector" and auto-correct technology, and a mixed result on the controversial "slide to unlock" patent. Apple was, for the first time outside of South Korea, found guilty of infringing a (purchased) Samsung patent, but neither side saw significant damages awarded.
More importantly, the jury has issued what amounts to a slap on the wrist to Samsung in terms of damages, awarding only $120 million to Apple -- far shy of the $2.2 billion it was seeking. Apple had asked the jury, in essence, to award it a huge damages fee as an incentive to get Samsung to stop copying Apple's technology.
Instead, the jury appears to have opted to leave punitive damages in the hands of Judge Lucy Koh, and instead awarded Apple roughly $4 per infringing device, about 10 percent of what the company was looking for on a per-unit basis. The iPhone maker was also found guilty of infringing one of Samsung's patents, but the jury awarded only $158,400 in damages. Both companies could see much higher punitive damages from Judge Koh, though she has a track record of avoiding such penalties -- she awarded no punitive damages against Samsung in the previous trial, despite obvious wilfulness as found by the jury.
The verdict -- very likely to be appealed by both sides -- puts both companies in the position of being able to request sales injunctions on the infringing devices. Samsung's Galaxy S III, still widely available, was picked by the jury as the most infringing of the devices, accounting for nearly half of the $119,625,000 awarded as a kind of "forced royalty" to Apple.
Attorneys are presently going over the damages form to be sure no mistakes were made. In the previous Apple-Samsung patent trial, the jury awarded Apple over $1 billion in damages (based on findings relating to a completely different set of patents that were design-related rather than software), but errors in the calculations of the damages led to a limited retrial, where Apple's award was reduced to $940 million.
Apple attorneys noticed that the jury seemingly forgot to award any royalty damages to Apple for Samsung's infringement (in the Galaxy S II) of Apple's '172 patent, otherwise known as "auto-correction" technology. Judge Koh decided to keep the verdict intact, but decided to ask the jury if they wanted to deliberate on the '172 patent aware today or come back on Monday to resolve it. The jury opted to return on Monday at 9am, with instructions that it cannot award a value of $0 for damages and must come up with "at least a reasonable royalty" figure.
Another question yet to be resolved in the trial is that of willful infringement. The jury found that Samsung willfully copied Apple on the three patents, but found Apple not guilty of willful infringement on the lone Samsung patent. One of the patents the jury determined Samsung willfully stole is the '172 "auto correct" patent that will be discussed on Monday. How that affects the damages award the jury decides -- and whether Judge Koh will decide that the willfulness merits a trebling of Apple's final damages award -- remains to be seen.
Apple has now issued a statement on the verdict, saying it was "grateful" to the jury and court for their service. "Today's ruling reinforces what courts around the world have already found: That Samsung willfully stole our ideas and copied our products. We are fighting to defend the hard work that goes into beloved products like the iPhone, which our employees devote their lives to designing and delivering for our customers."
Samsung has yet to issue a statement. The biggest winner of the case may turn out to be Google: it had agreed to indemnify Samsung against legal expenses and damages over two of the patents at stake in the trial -- but the jury found that those were the only two Samsung hadn't infringed.
One possible interpretation of the mixed verdict is that neither company was able to convince a jury that most of the patents on trial here were actually worth fighting over. Jurors were told how much each of the many expert witnesses brought into the trial were paid (fees in the upper three digits per hour, for the most part, with overall grosses per expert in the hundreds of thousands) but did not appear to put much weight into their differing opinions. Samsung's tactic of deliberately devaluing software patents throughout the trial may have both saved them grievous Apple damages but also backfired on them; Samsung got pennies per infringing device on its one successful claim against Apple compared to Apple's several dollars per Samsung infringing device.
Electronista and MacNN will continue coverage of the ruling after further jury deliberation when it resumes on Monday at 9AM PST (12 noon EST).