Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Apple and Samsung reach agreement on inclusion of new products in second California lawsuit

Late on Tuesday, Apple and Samsung filed a joint stipulation with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California concerning the addition of new products, or new product versions, to the second case pending between these parties in that district. The process to amend the infringement contentions again (such motions were already granted in November with respect to various other products including the iPhone 5, Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note 10.1) most recently made headline news when Apple withdrew claims against the Galaxy S III mini on the basis of Samsung's representation that it does not sell that particular device in the U.S. (Apple saw it on sale, apparently because of direct imports by resellers such as Amazon, and reserved the right to bring claims should it find out about any related commercial activity by Samsung).

While the Northern District of California has permissive rules concerning amended infringement contentions and Magistrate Judge Grewal, who is in charge of evidentiary issues in the two Apple v. Samsung cases, indicated to the parties that he won't easily deny a motion to amend at this stage, the parties still had some disagreements over certain details. The court had already scheduled a hearing for January 8. The parties than asked for a one-week extension because they were making progress and felt they could work this out. The court scheduled a hearing for January 15 (yesterday) at 10 AM local time. But based on the electronic record it appears that the hearing never took place. Presumably the parties informed the court of an agreement, and then finalized it in writing about 10 hours after the scheduled hearing time.

The agreement that has now been reached is (apart from the recently agreed-upon withdrawal of claims against the Galaxy S III mini) precisely the one that Apple had proposed all along: Apple's position was consistently that it would not oppose Samsung's proposed amendments (relating to the iPad 4, iPad mini and fifth-generation iPod) despite potential objections against the timing of, for example, claims against the FaceTime videotelephone software, provided that Samsung accepted Apple's proposed additions of six recently-released products, some of which are new devices (Samsung Galaxy Note II, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, Samsung Rugby Pro) while others are previously-accused devices with new Android software versions (Galaxy S III with Android Jelly Bean; Galaxy Tab 8.9 Wifi with Ice Cream Sandwich).

This second California case involves different patents than the ones in the case that went to trial last summer and presently has a March 2014 trial date.

The strategic significance of both California lawsuits now largely depends on whether the Federal Circuit will grant Apple's request for a rehearing en banc (full-bench review) of a landmark decision concerning the availability of injunctive relief against multi-feature devices such as smartphones and tablet computers. If injunctions remain largely unavailable, the California lawsuits will merely be about damages for past infringement and ongoing royalties for future use.

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