Friday, June 8, 2012

Apple may request temporary restraining order to block Galaxy S III launch -- but trial date may slip

Reuters, Bloomberg and the San Jose Mercury News had reporters at Thursday's Apple v. Samsung preliminary injunction hearing. The reports indicate that Judge Koh understands Apple's sense of urgency with respect to the Galaxy S III, which has a June 21 launch date and an unprecedented level of pre-orders, but the next step is for the parties to tell the court, on an expedited schedule, about differences between the Galaxy Nexus, which Apple's February 2012 motion for a preliminary injunction targets, and the S III.

Judge Koh pointed to "human bandwidth" constraints, saying she can't just be "an Apple v. Samsung judge" and also has other cases to attend to, so if Apple moves for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the launch of the S III, the July trial date for its initial 2011 lawsuit against Samsung might slip.

If the evidence shows that the S III doesn't present infringement issues that are "colorably different" from those of the Nexus, Apple may be allowed to add the S III to the related preliminary injunction motion, but it appears unlikely that a preliminary injunction would come down in time for the June 21 launch. That's why Judge Koh pointed to the possibility of a TRO.

From Apple's perspective it's unfair that Samsung gets away with product launch after product launch though it allegedly infringes its intellectual property. I can understand that perspective. At the same time, this is a rapidly-evolving market with fast innovation cycles, and since Samsung denies any wrongdoing, it thinks it has every right to keep releasing new products.

Winning a TRO against the S III would help Apple in some ways, but it remains to be seen whether it will pay the price of a postponed trial date. We'll know soon what Apple's choice is.

There is a precedent for Apple delaying the rollout of a Samsung product. Last summer, Apple's bid for a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia forced Samsung to push back the release by a few months. There was no formal TRO prior to the injunction, but under pressure from the court, Samsung committed to a couple of successive delays. Later the preliminary injunction was entered, but lifted shortly thereafter following a full-bench review.

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