For Apple and Samsung, it seems the show will go on.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who has been overseeing the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Samsung, last month expressed doubts about the need for a second trial for another suit that Apple had filed against Samsung in February.
In a Jan. 29 order, posted by The Verge, Koh wrote that “a new trial would be contrary to the interests of justice.” And in February she commented, “I just don’t know if we really need two cases on this.”
On March 8, however, she entered a case management order, laying out the ground rules for a second trial, which would go into effect in March 2014.
Koh’s order follows a March 7 filing by Apple, which objected to not holding a second trial, or delaying one until the first was fully settled. Apple’s second suit against Samsung involves a group of four patents that includes technology relevant to Siri.
Apple insisted on the timeliness of a second trial, however, explaining in part, “This case must proceed now, in order to stop the ongoing sales—and relentless launch—of Samsung’s latest infringing devices, which have caused, and every day continue to cause, continuing harm to Apple.”
On March 14, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, Samsung is expected to introduce a Galaxy S IV smartphone, the latest Android-running device in a wildly popular series that has helped make it the world’s top-selling smartphone brand.
Koh, in advance of the first trial in August 2012, worked to streamline—or “narrow”—the claims, as patent expert and industry consultant Florian Mueller has explained on his FOSS Patents blog. Setting up a second trial, she narrowed things down even more, no doubt to avoid the patience-testing legal antics she suffered during the summer.
(A comment Koh made to one Apple attorney, regarding whether he was “smoking crack,” was well-circulated.)
First, she insisted that, in 10 days’ time, both Samsung and Apple must limit their asserted patent claims and accused products to 25 per side. Additionally, both parties will be required to further limit their patent claims, accused products and prior-art references, she added.
Mueller wrote in a March 9 blog post that while he understands Koh’s motivation, the narrowing nonetheless creates a problem:
How will the rule of law ever be enforced if companies have to drop claims against products they actually consider to have infringed and if they don’t have reasonable access to injunctive relief that would give them enough leverage to obtain a favorable settlement? How can a legitimate innovator enforce his rights against an obstinate infringer? With all the talk about the U.S. patent system being “broken,” there’s hardly any attention to the fact that the U.S. patent enforcement system makes it extremely difficult for rights holders to deal with parties that infringe large numbers of patents with large numbers of products.
In August, a jury in Koh’s court ruled that Samsung had infringed on Apple patents and owed Apple $1.05 billion. On March 1, Koh knocked roughly $450 million off Samsung’s tab, but called for a new trial to more exactly determine what Apple should be paid.
Nokia, not so much backing Apple as the right to protect one’s patents, filed an “amici curiae” brief March 5, saying that it supported Apple’s efforts to have a court order reversed and certain of Samsung’s products banned.