Friday, May 11, 2012

Apple-Samsung summer trial still possible -- Apple allowed to reassert 'dropped' claims in new lawsuit

Late on Thursday by local time, Judge Lucy Koh, the Korean-American federal judge presiding over Apple's two California lawsuits against Samsung, entered an order in response to the parties' proposals to further narrow their claims as well as a subsequent filing by Apple (Apple asked for permission to respond to Samsung's brief, and attached its proposed reply, but the judge denied that particular request).

Judge Koh's order is mostly positive for Apple.

While she agrees with Samsung that some further narrowing is needed, she's now going to explore ways to narrow the case by means of motions (for summary judgment etc.). Only if those efforts don't result in a sufficient narrowing, she will go back to the parties and tell them to drop more claims. When this narrowing discussion started, I already said that this approach (making some decisions in the near term that have a narrowing effect) would be the very best next step at this stage.

What's particularly important is that Apple will be allowed to reassert any intellectual property rights withdrawn from this lawsuit in subsequent actions. Samsung insisted on dismissal with prejudice, which would preclude reassertion, but Apple prevailed on this one. In other words, Samsung can't force Apple to basically grant it a free and unrestricted license to some intellectual property only in order to keep the schedule for the enforcement of other intellectual property rights. In this regard, Apple is fortunate that the federal judge presiding over this case is Judge Koh, not her colleague Judge Alsup from the same district. Judge Alsup obligated Oracle to drop claims with prejudice in exchange for a near-term trial -- an approach that certainly contributes to the efficiency of the court system but comes with a price in the form of potentially very inequitable results.

Apple's preference would have been to have the claims dropped for the jury trial adjudicated by Judge Koh herself after a bench trial. That would have been the fastest way for Apple to get rulings on those claims as well, but Judge Koh won't do that. However, the fundamental question here was whether Apple would get to pursue those other claims at all, and that one has been answered in Apple's favor. If Apple reasserts those claims, it will almost certainly do so again in the Northern District of California, and there should be ways to build on the discovery effort as well as claim construction and other trial preparations that habe already been made in this action.

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