Apple-Samsung Dispute Rolls On as Judge Slashes $1.05 Billion Award

 
 
By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-03-02
 
 
 

Apple for now will have to be satisfied with getting almost $600 million from Samsung.

A federal court judge, citing concerns over a jury’s decision, slashed by almost half the $1.05 billion judgment awarded to the company last year following a bitter trial over patent disputes.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who oversaw the California trial that ended with the massive jury judgment in August 2012, on March 1 knocked down the award to $598.9 million and ordered a new trial from some of the Samsung products that Apple officials said infringed on Apple patents.

The new trial reportedly will focus on determining the amount of damages owed to Apple in connection with those Samsung devices. Koh had kept in place the part of the award that dealt with a number of other Samsung smartphones and tablets. In her order, Koh questioned whether the evidence from the trial dealing with the harm any patent infringements by some Samsung devices had on Apple warranted the massive award.

The new trial would involve such devices as Samsung’s Gem, Galaxy S II, Infuse 4G, Droid Charge, Galaxy Tab and Nexus S 4G.

"When a Court detects an error in the jury's damages verdict, the Court has two choices: the Court may order a new trial on damages, or the Court may reduce the award to a supportable amount," she wrote, adding that she had “identified an impermissible legal theory on which the jury based its award.”

However, Koh reportedly also rejected requests by Apple to increase the $1.05 billion in damages. Apple lawyers had argued that the damage to the company caused by Samsung’s behavior warranted more money. But the judge noted that there was a continuing dispute about the amount owed, necessitating another trial.

“It is not the proper role of the court to second-guess the jury’s factual determination as to the proper amount of compensation,” Koh said wrote.

Samsung officials applauded the judge’s decision, and said they hope to reduce the amount of the award still remaining.

"We are pleased that the court decided to strike $450,514,650 from the jury's award," the officials said in a statement. "Samsung intends to seek further review as to the remaining award."

The judge’s ruling is the latest twist in an increasingly bitter legal dispute being contested on numerous fronts in different courtrooms around the world as Apple and Samsung, the world’s top smartphone makers, continue to vie in a mobile device market that analysts firms have pinned at about $350 billion last year, and growing.

Since the $1.05 billion award last year, Apple has had a few setbacks, with the slashing of the judgment being the latest. Most significantly, Koh in December 2012 ruled against Apple, saying she would not order to ban sales of those Samsung products in the United States. Around that time, the judge appeared to be laying the groundwork for her decision March 1 to reduce the awards, saying in an order that “while Apple has presented evidence that design, as a general matter, is important to consumers more broadly, Apple simply has not established a sufficient casual nexus between infringement of its design patents and irreparable harm. Though evidence that Samsung attempted to copy certain Apple features may offer limited support for Apple's theory, it does not establish that those features actually drove customer demand."

However, around the same time in December, Samsung officials said that while they would continue pursuing lawsuits against Apple in Europe, they were dropping demands to ban Apple products from store shelves.

Koh’s March 1 decision to reduce the amount awarded to Apple will only continue to roil the legal waters between the two mobile device giants, according to patent lawyer Florian Mueller. In his blog Foss Patents, Mueller noted that Koh is recommending that the second damages trial be held only after the other appellate issues between the two companies are resolved.

“Part of the reason why a new damages determination is needed is that Judge Koh disagreed with the notice date concerning certain patents-in-suit,” he wrote in a March 1 post. “The jury based its award on the notice date provided by Apple, which Judge Koh now believes was too early because only one of the patents, the rubber-banding patent, had actually been listed in a presentation Apple gave to Samsung in 2010. Whenever it will ultimately be held, the second damages trial over the 14 products with respect to which the jury award has been vacated … could result in a figure that is lower or higher than (or, theoretically but unlikely, identical to) the one reached by the jury in August. There will have to be a new jury.”

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