Back in 2012, some people believed that Apple's patents victory over Samsung was a major victory for Apple. Some of us knew better.
Samsung, as predicted, appealed. Now, the courts, taking a dim view of the jury's three-day deliberation over Apple's patents, are throwing their verdicts out.
The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the court that deals with patent appeals, found on February 26 that Samsung did not infringe Apple's "click to call" technology, and found claims that Apple's "slide to unlock" and auto-correct patents are invalid as obvious.
Finally a moment of patent sanity! Apple design patents are rotten to the core.
It's not just Samsung and me that see it that way. A coalition of companies led by Google, Facebook, eBay, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard filed a brief with the Court of Appeals in July. This group supports Samsung's plea to have damages related to its alleged infringement of Apple's patents either reduced or dropped entirely.
These companies aren't doing this because they're all bosom-buddies with Samsung. They're doing this out of enlightened self-interest. They don't want to be hauled over the coals for stupid design patents.
As the group put it in their amicus curiae document, "If allowed to stand, that decision will lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies ... who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components,"
This most recent Apple v. Samsung decision throws out the jury results from the second round of Apple v. Samsung from 2014. In that case, Apple lost ground from the 2012 decision. In this go-around, some Apple patents were rejected and Apple, instead of getting a windfall of more than $2 billion, got only $119.6 million in damages.
In an amusing aside, the jury found that Apple infringed upon one of Samsung's mobile patents. The jury called for Apple to pay Samsung approximately $158,000.
In 2016, the Court of Appeals threw out Apple's $119 million judgment. The Court, however, upheld Samsung's comparatively penny-ante $158,000 award.
This decision also appears to have put an end to Apple's symbolic victory of an injunction that banned the US sales ban of older, obsolete Samsung's smartphones.
A Samsung spokesperson said, "We are delighted with the resounding victory from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which found that two of Apple's patents should never have been issued,"
It's not all gone Samsung's way. In December, Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages over iPhone patents. But Samsung has also claimed "all rights to obtain reimbursement from Apple". In short, the fight's not over.
Samsung has appealed this loss to Apple to the Supreme Court. A shier petition is on the high court's March 4 conference list.
If Samsung gets the Supreme Court to review this decision -- and I think it will -- given the overly-broad reach of design patents, Apple will doubtlessly fight on. Really, Apple should stop wasting its time and money in this ham-handed fight against Android, which has always been the real target for its Samsung lawsuits.
As Florian Mueller, editor of FOSS Patents, puts it, "Apple should finally put an end to this Samsung litigation. The entire 'thermonuclear war' on Android was a bad idea." Exactly so.