Samsung, Apple Continue to Battle But Samsung Drops Ban Request

Samsung has dropped its request that Apple products be banned from shelves in Europe, possibly as part of a deal with the European Commission.

Samsung and Apple continue to make complaints about the other in courts, but in recent days each has had its footing changed. Samsung announced Dec. 18 that while it would continue to sue Apple in European courts, it has dropped the request that Apple devices be banned from shelves, saying it's putting consumers first.

"Samsung has decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our standard essential patents pending in European courts, in the interest of protecting consumer choice," Samsung officials said in a statement.

An executive told Bloomberg that Samsung has unilaterally withdrawn its requests for injunctions in Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, but "will continue litigation that seeks damages in intellectual-property disputes."

While applauding the move by Samsung, patent expert and industry consultant Florian Mueller, on his FOSS Patents blog, wrote that it likely didn't come from the bottom of Samsung's heart.

"There can be no doubt whatsoever that the European Commission was behind this. Samsung would never have done this voluntarily, especially not in jurisdictions such as Germany that do not rule out SEP-based [standard essential patent] injunctions at all," wrote Mueller.

What's unclear, he added, is whether the European Commission has a gentleman's agreement with Samsung that the antitrust investigation will be dropped if Samsung dropped its injunctions.

"If there is such an agreement, then the European Commission will soon comment favorably on Samsung's announcement and close the case," wrote Mueller. "If there is no such agreement, then the investigation may continue and Samsung may still be fined, but it would certainly be in much better shape than if it had carried on with its enforcement, especially in Germany."

Apple would like nothing more than for at least eight of the 21 Samsung devices that it has said infringe on its patents to be banned from shelves in the United States. But after a Dec. 17 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh, such a ban is looking unlikely.

In Koh's court in August, a jury ruled that Samsung had willfully infringed on Apple patents and awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages.

Samsung protested, and back in court Dec. 17, Koh—seeming to not believe the argument that Apple, its ecosystem and its bottom line had been badly damaged by Samsung's products—also suggested that the award was a bit high.

"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," Koh wrote in an order. "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."

Apple is expected to appeal.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, referring to Apple's battles with Samsung on the NBC program Rock Center during an interview earlier this month, told host Brian Williams: "We love competition at Apple. We think it makes us all better. But we want people to make their own stuff."