Thursday, January 5, 2012

Italian court denies Samsung motion for preliminary injunction against iPhone 4S

ANSA, the leading Italian news agency, just reported that Judge Marina Tavassi of the Tribunale di Milano -- the Milan-based Italian first-instance court for patent cases -- has rejected a Samsung request for a preliminary injunction against the sale of the iPhone 4S in Italy.

Thanks to setteB.IT's Fabio Zambelli for flagging this news to me.

Samsung brought its motion in October 2011. After a first hearing, the court decided that it would hold at least one more hearing prior to making a decision. At the time I said that "Samsung's hopes for iPhone 4S injunctions in France and Italy are alive but fading". By now, Samsung's motions have been denied in both countries. The French decision, which I published in its entirety, came down less than a month ago.

In my first post of this year, I mentioned the ongoing Italian proceedings as potentially generating news this month. It was unclear how long it was going to take, but apparently the court has seen enough to deny the request.

Samsung previously failed with a request for a preliminary injunction in the Netherlands. That one was brought before the French and Italian complaints over the iPhone 4S. Anyway, Samsung's requests for preliminary injunctions against Apple products have so far failed in all three European countries in which they were brought.

Apple's own requests for preliminary injunctions have been slightly more successful so far, but only slightly so -- and Apple may soon owe Samsung significant damages for improperly-granted preliminary injunctions in Germany, Australia and the Netherlands if the courts in those jurisdictions ultimately find that the relevant injunctions shouldn't have been ordered in the first place.

In the most important market, the United States, Apple's bid for a preliminary injunction against four Samsung products failed last month. Apple immediately appealed that denial to the Federal Circuit, which ordered Apple (last week) to correct its appeal. It's unclear what kind of correction was required.

Both Apple and Samsung were trying to rush things in order to score some quick wins of rulings with a profound disruptive impact on each other's business. This didn't work. They're both going to have to focus on regular, full-blown proceedings rather than the fast-track proceedings triggered by requests for preliminary injunctions.

It can be frustrating to see how long litigation -- especially patent litigation -- takes. But that's part of life.

Earlier today I leveled some rather harsh criticsm at Apple's past litigation strategies against the three leading Android device makers. For example, the earliest point in time at which Apple can now win its next decision against HTC will be in March 2013 (and even that one could be postponed). Delays aren't the same as defeats -- but Apple definitely made some mistakes and in a couple of cases was out of luck, such as when a court in Delaware decided two weeks ago to stay all of Apple's federal lawsuits against HTC at once.

All these companies -- including Samsung -- are going over a certain learning curve. But they will all have to keep going because there's so much at stake. And last week a Samsung executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Korea Times that "[t]he patent battle is going south, however, [they] should not drop this as it is more about pride". There's no shortage of reasons to carry on -- but there's also a pressing need to come up with better strategies on the part of some players.

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