Friday, June 29, 2012

Federal judge clears Apple of infringement of a Samsung patent ahead of summer trial

Last month, Apple and Samsung brought a number of summary judgment motions in their first U.S. lawsuit. Apple's winning streak continues for now: after (finally) obtaining a preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and winning by a wide margin a battle over a long list of expert reports, Apple has just been cleared of infringement of one of the three Samsung patents it was attacking in its very focused summary judgment motions.

Judge Koh granted Apple's motion to determine on summary judgment that it does not infringe claims 25 and 26 of U.S. Patent No. 7,362,867 on an "apparatus and method for generating scrambling code in UMTS mobile communication system", but denied Apple's motion to hold U.S. Patent No. 7,456,893 and U.S. Patent No. 7,577,460 invalid for indefiniteness. It's generally very hard to have a patent claim declared "indefinite": most of the time, judges find other ways to deal with claim language that appears exceedingly broad. In her order, Judge Koh also indicated a belief that Apple's concerns over vague claim language can be addressed through the court's claim construction without throwing out entire patent claims.

Apple focused its summary judgment requests on only three of Samsung's seven patents-in-suit. With the non-infringement finding concerning the '867 patent, Samsung's case is down to six patents, and Judge Koh may very well ask for some further narrowing. Samsung isn't actually interested in this case going to trial as planned (it's scheduled to start on July 30), but it doesn't want to appear uncooperative, so if the judge asks for some more narrowing, it will presumably comply.

Samsung brought summary judgment motions that carpet-bombed all of Apple's asserted intellectual property rights. Judge Koh has not ruled on Samsung's numerous summary judgment requests yet, but I believe she will do so very soon. I guess Apple's case will also be narrowed, at least to some extent, as a result of summary judgment.

Since most of Samsung's patents-in-suit are FRAND-pledged standard-essential patents, today's news that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Google's (Motorola Mobility's) pursuit of injunctive relief based on SEPs doesn't make things easier for Samsung, which is already being investigated by the European Commission and may at some point also face a U.S. inquiry.

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