Friday, June 29, 2012

Apple wins U.S. preliminary injunction against the Samsung/Google Galaxy Nexus over Siri patent

Judge Lucy Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has just granted Apple a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, an Android-based smartphone co-developed by Samsung and Google. Here's the header section of the order (click to enlarge):

The motion for this preliminary injunction was filed in February. Samsung filed its defenses in April.

The ruling is a huge win for Apple as well as Morrison & Foerster and Gibson Dunn, the law firms working on this part of the litigation.

Apple and its lawyers convinced Judge Koh that the Galaxy Nexus likely infringes all four of the patents asserted in the preliminary injunction motion, and that all four of them are likely valid. But in the United States, injunctive relief is granted only if monetary damages are insufficient to make the right holder whole, and if other requirements are met. Courts apply the four-factor eBay v. MercExchange test. Apple's motion passed that test with respect to the "Siri patent", a patent on unified search. It must be a huge disappointment for Google to lose this lawsuit over a search patent. With respect to the other three patents at issue in this context -- slide-to-unlock, data tapping and autocorrect --, Judge Koh was not convinced that those features drive consumer demand and that Samsung's likely infringement causes irreparable harm. But Apple can still win an injunction when this case goes to trial, and even if it couldn't prove an entitlement to injunctive relief over those patents at that stage, Samsung would be liable for significant damages.

In order for the injunction to take effect, Apple has to post a bond in the amount of $96 million ($95,637,141.60 to be precise), which is exactly the amount that Samsung demanded. There's no question that Apple will post this bond in no time, and that Samsung will appeal and move for a stay.

Apple is now probably going to think about requesting a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy S III smartphone. Earlier this month, Apple wanted to add that device as a second accused product to this process. There were two patents with respect to which Apple believed Samsung's infringement had the same pattern, and the '604 Siri patent was one of them. If Apple moved for a preliminary injunction against the S III now over the Siri patent, it would be very likely to win, but it would have to accept a postponement of the trial of its first lawsuit against Samsung. This is a tough choice to make, but a motion over only one patent wouldn't necessarily cause a huge delay.

Apple is on an incredible winning streak these days against Android. Earlier this week, it won a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Today it was also cleared, by summary judgment, of infringement of one of Samsung's patents-in-suit. And on Friday, it won, by an unusually wide margin, a battle over expert reports.

Even Judge Posner's ruling was, on the bottom line, far better for Apple than for Google. The problem is just that there are too many people commenting on these issues without understanding them, or with an anti-IP bias. As I explained in a previous post, "the decision on Apple's claims was very specific not only to the four patents at issue at that stage of the litigation but also to the course of events in that litigation (as I pointed out in my detailed analysis)", as evidenced by the fact that Apple has meanwhile won two preliminary injunctions against Samsung, while "Judge Posner's position on FRAND is universally-applicable, and it will be extremely influential, throughout and beyond the United States", to Google's (Motorola's) dismay.

Quotes from the ruling

The ruling spans over 101 pages. Here are a few select quotes:

On the likely infringement and likely validity of all four asserted patents:

"In sum, Apple has shown that claims 6 and 19 of the '604 [Siri] Patent are likely both valid and infringed. Apple has therefore shown a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of the '604 Patent."

"In sum, Apple has shown a likelihood of establishing both infringement and validity."

"Accordingly, Apple has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its '647 [data tapping] Patent claim."

"Accordingly, Apple has met its burden of establishing that the '721 [slide-to-unlock] Patent is likely infringed by the Galaxy Nexus, and that the '721 Patent will likely withstand a validity challenge at trial."

"Accordingly, Apple has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits at trial in its claims that the Samsung Galaxy Nexus infringes claims 18, 19, and 27 of the '172 [autocorrect] Patent."

On irreparable harm:

"The Court finds that the full extent of these losses would likely be unascertainable, difficult to calculate, and irreparable."

On the ability of Siri to drive demand:

"The Court is persuaded by the evidence in the record that the ’604 unified search functionality drives consumer demand in a way that affects substantial market share. Even accepting Samsung's argument that the intelligent voice-recognition aspect of Siri, as advertised, also contributes to consumer interest in the iPhone 4S, Apple has shown that the '604 Patented feature is core to Siri's functionality and is thus a but-for driver of demand for Siri. Accordingly, the Court finds that Apple has adequately established the requisite causal nexus between Samsung's alleged infringement of the '604 Patent and Apple’s risk of suffering irreparable harm."

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