Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Apple and Samsung drop additional claims against each other ahead of U.S. trial

On May 1 and May 7, Apple and Samsung had already dropped some claims against each other from their first California lawsuit (which is scheduled to go to trial on July 30). Further narrowing resulted from summary judgment: one Samsung patent got tossed. But all 12 of Samsung's summary judgment requests were denied.

Late on Tuesday, the parties filed a joint statement on narrowing, which Judge Koh had requested. I'm not surprised that Judge Koh felt some more narrowing was in order. She wants to impose strict limits on the parties' presentation time at trial and on the number of trial exhibits. It's going to be difficult to argue a huge number of intellectual property rights within those limits.

The parties' joint statement is not necessarily the last word on narrowing. Everything depends now on Judge Koh's assessment of the trial-readiness of this case.

Apple dropped U.S. Patent No. 7,663,607 on a "multipoint touchscreen". The '607 patent would be a very powerful hardware patent, but courts tend to be skeptical of its validity, and even if they deem it valid in part, it appears that they tend to narrow its scope. Apple was only asserting one remaining claim from this patent and withdrew it (without prejudice, i.e., it may reassert it at some other point).

Apple furthermore narrows its trade dress claims. Those relate to the packaging of products. It proposes the dismissal, again without prejudice, of its trade dress allegations against the original 7.0-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab. "Apple also clarifies that it is not accusing the F700 [smartphone] of infringing Apple's trade dress."

After just losing an entire patent on summary judgment, Samsung didn't want to drop another patent, but it has reduced the number of claims (from its six remaining patents-in-suit) from 15 to 9. Samsung will assert two claims each from three of its patents, and one claim from each of its other three patents.

After Independence Day there will probably be a statement by Judge Koh on whether or not the parties are done winnowing.

Apple's tactical plans concerning the July 30 trial aren't easy to figure out. Apple tirelessly points out the sense of urgency for this trial, and it has been quite cooperative so far, though it still has a long list of intellectual property rights-in-suit in this case. After the Federal Circuit decides on Samsung's motion to stay the Nexus injunction, it remains to be seen whether Apple will attack the Galaxy S III even if this results in a postponement of the trial. Apple hasn't given any indication that it will do so, but it might. The Siri-style unified search patent may be strategically more powerful than the patents that will go to trial at the end of this month, and the S III would be a high-priority target. If Samsung doesn't get the Nexus injunction stayed (and I've seen more compelling arguments from Samsung than the ones it made in favor of a stay), things will get interesting.

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