Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Japanese appeals court upholds dismissal of Apple-Samsung lawsuit over synchronization patent

According to reports by major news agencies (AP, Bloomberg), the Tokyo-based Intellectual Property High Court, which is the (even more specialized) Japanese equivalent of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, today affirmed an August 2012 ruling by the Tokyo District Court against Apple's claims that Samsung's Android-based devices infringe a patent on "synchronizing technology that allows media players to share data with personal computers".

In the August 2012 post I just linked to I already clarified -- as I did again in a Saturday post on a Tokyo District Court decision in favor of Apple's assertion of the rubber-banding (overscroll bounce) patent against Samsung and a German nullity ruling concerning a hardware patent Apple asserted against Motorola -- that the dismissal of a patent infringement lawsuit usually (unless there's a highly strategic issue in the case) means there have been no winners and no losers: a large corporation just spent a few million dollars on something that didn't work out. So the news agencies' headlines ("Samsung beats Apple...", "...court upholds Samsung win against Apple"), while technically correct, don't reflect the commercial and strategic reality that this doesn't matter too much to Apple, while a win would have been quite useful.

While Japan was one of the first three jurisdictions in which Samsung filed complaints against Apple in response to the latter's original California lawsuit after only about a week, it's a jurisdiction in which Samsung has failed to score an offensive win, while Apple has just prevailed on the rubber-banding patent.

Earlier this year the Tokyo District Court held Samsung's use of standard-essential patents against Apple to be abusive conduct. In October 2012 it had already rejected two of Samsung's assertions of non-standard-essential patents against Apple. A third non-SEP case also appears to have gone nowhere.

Apple and Samsung have been suing each other for 26 months. In connection with this wider dispute, Japan is now the second jurisdiction in which an appeals court has adjudged a final ruling (as opposed to a preliminary injunction). Last month the Hoge Raad (Supreme Court of the Netherlands) affirmed (appellate opinion in Dutch) in all respects except for litigation expenses a district court ruling that did not find Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 to infringe an Apple Community design (the EU equivalent of a U.S. design patent).

The most important appeal involving these parties is pending in the Federal Circuit. It relates to the question of whether Apple is entitled to a permanent injunction following last year's trial win.

In Germany the first appellate hearing between Apple and Samsung had originally been scheduled by the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court (to which all Mannheim rulings are appealed) to take place tomorrow. Samsung is appealing the Mannheim Regional Court's January 2012 dismissal of its assertion of a patent declared essential to the 3G wireless standard, EP1005726 on a "turbo encoding/decoding device and method for processing frame data according to QoS". But in April 2013 Apple succeeded in the Federal Patent Court of Germany and achieved the (appealable) invalidation of this patent Germany. As a result, the most Samsung could have realistically won from the appeals court in the infringement proceeding would have been a stay (and even this would have required the appeals court to reverse the lower court's holding of non-infringement). Therefore it stipulated to a stay (in April, shortly after the Federal Patent Court's decision). The infringement case will resume (only) if Samsung convinces the Federal Court of Justice that the Federal Patent Court erred in declaring this patent invalid in Germany. Various other Samsung v. Apple and Apple v. Samsung decisions have been appealed to the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court but I'm not (yet) aware of any related hearing dates.

Later today the two companies will spar in the Düsseldorf Regional Court over Apple's unfair competition claims related to phone designs. (I won't attend because I focus on issues surrounding technical inventions.)

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