Apple and Samsung have today come to a grudging agreement in the Federal Court of New South Wales that will see a trimmed-down version of Samsung's cross claim against the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4S and the iPad 2 heard as an early final hearing next year.
Samsung's cross claim against the iPhone and the iPad followed Apple's bid to have the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 banned in Australia due to intellectual property infringement. Apple was successful in its move to ban the tablet until the matter could be heard on a more extensive basis next year, but not before Samsung, in a similar move, sought to have the iPhone 4S pulled from local shelves.
The court heard at interlocutory proceedings this morning that the two are ready to move into a phase known as the "early final hearing", where only three of the seven patents that Samsung is pushing in its infringement cross-claim will be aired. The early final hearing is a way of speeding up the judgment process in an evidence-heavy case such as this, and would see a decision made on whether Samsung would win its push to have the iPhone 4S banned in Australia due to patent infringement.
Justice Annabelle Bennett today ordered that 8 March 2012 would be the date when the final hearing would kick off for a period of three weeks, despite initial protests from Apple.
Communications between the two gadget giants tendered in court by Samsung revealed an unwillingness on the part of Apple to meet for an early final hearing in March, instead pushing for an early final hearing in August 2012, a suggestion that drew audible scolding from Justice Bennett and a small laugh from a packed courtroom. Apple's legal team sought instruction before agreeing to the March deadline.
Apple's compliance with Samsung's early final hearing date in March came after Justice Bennett spent over 10 minutes arguing with Stephen Burley SC about the appropriate and efficient use of court time.
Bennett recalled points from the original case against the Galaxy Tab 10.1, where the two parties agreed that the tablet and smartphone space is moving so quickly that products are likely to carry a 12-month lifecycle in the local market, meaning that if the early final hearing was to take place in August 2012, as Apple wanted, new devices would have likely emerged, and the court would have to spend months hearing extra evidence on those.
Apple and Samsung are set to meet in the next few days, with a view to organise a better date, should Apple disagree with the early final hearing after the fact.
The case is set to reconvene for a directions hearing on Friday.