Thursday, December 12, 2013

Korean court dismisses Samsung lawsuit against Apple over three non-standard-essential patents

Samsung's assertions of standard-essential patents (SEPs) against Apple have a drop-out rate in the 80%-90% range (in Germany, where Samsung asserted four SEPs against Apple, it's 100% at this stage), but at least there have been a few findings that patents deemed valid were held infringed (two in Korea and one each in the Netherlands and at the ITC). That meager harvest, which has failed to give Samsung strategic leverage over Apple, yet compares rather favorably to its assertions of non-SEPs: a federal jury in the Northern District of California identified no infringements at last year's trial (Samsung had previously withdrawn several non-SEPs), the Mannheim Regional Court had stayed two patents over non-SEPs of dubious validity (a smiley input patent and a voiceover patent), a Tokyo court ruled against Samsung's assertions of patents on app downloads and an in-flight (airplane) mode last year, and to the extent Samsung did not withdraw them anyway, its non-SEPs asserted against Apple at the ITC also failed (it's not even pursuing any of its non-SEPs on appeal).

Today the Seoul Central District Court ruled on a Samsung lawsuit over three Korean non-SEPs asserted against Apple and found that two of these patents were invalid for obviousness while a third one was not infringed. That's what I just learned from a report by Youkyung Lee of the Associated Press, which is consistent with another one (less detailed at this stage) by Reuters' Miyoung Kim. (The reports don't say that these are non-SEPs, but the description of what the patents cover indicates to me that they aren't standard-essential.)

Zero successful non-SEP assertions worldwide. A few more of them will go to trial in the U.S. starting March 31, 2014, and claim construction didn't go well for Samsung, especially with respect to its non-SEPs-in-suit.

By contrast, Apple has scored wins over Samsung in multiple venues, and always over non-SEPs, lending credence to its allegations of copying.

Patent law would fail to protect true innovators if infringers of non-SEPs could simply leverage their SEPs (which have more to do with the collective market power of participants in a standard-setting process than technological progress) in order to force someone into a comprehensive cross-license involving non-SEPs. I hope this will be considered by the European Commission, which at least appears to be somewhat unconvinced of Samsung's SEP-related antitrust settlement proposal.

On another Apple-Samsung note, Judge Koh's court in San Jose, California, stated on Wednesday that Apple's motion for a recovery of attorneys' fees and other costs, which Apple noted for a January 20, 2014 hearing, will be heard on May 1, 2014 instead. Apple had proposed the January 20 date without seeking prior approval by the court, and May 1 is the first date the court believes it can make available for this hearing. Obviously a $22 million reimbursement is a small thing compared to the magnitude of this dispute, and the May 1 date will be after the aforementioned trial of the second Apple v. Samsung litigation in the same district.

Also, a hearing on the "Patentgate" affair involving improper disclosures of highly confidential business information was held on Monday.

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