Friday, March 8, 2013

German court keeps Samsung's hopes alive by scheduling retrial in 3G patent case against Apple

This morning -- the day after Justice Floyd in the UK declared three of Samsung's standard-essential patents (SEPs) invalid -- Judge Andreas Voss ("Voß" in German) ordered a retrial, scheduled for July 26, 2013, in a Samsung v. Apple case over a 3G standard-essential patent (SEP). The second trial is needed because Samsung had presented a theory in a mid-December post-trial brief that suggest Apple has not met (at least not yet) its burden of proof as a defendant. Further analysis of how various German mobile networks operate will apparently be needed, and a ruling entitling Samsung to damages (the amount of which would have to be determined in a subsequent proceeding) is still a possibility. Samsung argued that Apple could not simply deny for lack of sufficient knowledge that some German carriers transmit data in a way that falls within the scope of the patent-in-suit, but that Apple could, and would therefore have to (if it seeks to defend itself), perform certain experiments to shed light on this technical question.

The patent-in-suit is EP1679803 on a "method for configuring gain factors for uplink service in radio telecommunication system". Samsung declared it essential to the 3G (UMTS) wireless telecommunication standard.

Even if Samsung ultimately prevailed on this patent, Apple would not face an injunction. At the trial, which was held in October, counsel for Samsung had doubted the European Commission's speed and resolve. Two months later, Samsung withdrew all of its European SEP-based injunction requests against Apple (a unilateral move that did not dissuade the EU regulator from issuing a Statement of Objections against Samsung's conduct). Samsung continues to sue Apple over SEPs for damages.

In late January the Mannheim-based court stayed another Samsung SEP damages case over doubts concerning the validity of the patent-in-suit. Samsung's first three SEP assertions against Apple in Germany failed last year because the court did not identify any infringements. On a worldwide basis, including yesterday's UK rulings on three patents, Samsung has been unsuccessful with no less than 25 SEP assertions (including cases it lost, patents it withdrew, and the German case that got stayed).

Samsung's German lawsuits over non-SEPs haven't succeeded either. A request for an injunction against the iPhone's voiceover feature, which matters a great deal to blind and vision-impaired users, was stayed last month, and one over a smiley input method patent suffered the same fate in December. Apple hasn't been more successful with its own German patent assertions against Samsung, apart from a temporary ban of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 over a Community design (the European equivalent of a U.S. design patent), which Samsung successfully designed around, and a couple of other design-based injunctions that aren't commercially relevant at this stage.

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