"Apple took its best shot and lost," said Koppelman, who represented Nokia Corp. in its recent patent litigation against Apple. "This case was never about money. It was about market share and market disruption."
Stanley Gibson, chairman of the patent litigation group at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, said Koh's decision and case law from the Federal Circuit makes it extremely difficult to get an injunction against products like smartphones that combine hundreds of features.
"You're going to need to show the reason consumers are buying this particular competing product is really due to the patented feature," Gibson said.
Some patent lawyers, including Apple's team, have responded by commissioning surveys that probe consumer decisions, Gibson said.
In her ruling, Koh rejected evidence from a consumer survey conducted by Apple, which asked Samsung owners to put a monetary value on particular features corresponding to Apple patents. Evidence customers would pay more for certain features does not mean those functions drove their decision to buy the phone in the first place, she wrote.
Koh also concluded that taking Samsung phones off the market was not in the public interest.
"The phones at issue in this case contain a broad range of features, only a small fraction of which are covered by Apple's patents," Koh wrote. "Though Apple does have some interest in retaining certain features as exclusive to Apple, it does not follow that entire products must be forever banned from the market because they incorporate, among their myriad features, a few narrow protected functions."
Some lawyers following the case suggested Koh's ruling could lead to a settlement between Apple and Samsung. Alternatively, it could shift even more of the litigation over smartphone patents into the International Trade Commission or foreign venues more likely to grant injunctions, said Santa Clara law professor Brian Love.
Love said patent-holders historically abused the court's power to grant injunctions to force settlements, as in the patent litigation against BlackBerry maker Research in Motion, which nearly shut down BlackBerry service before the company entered a $612 million settlement in 2006.
Koh's decision instructs lawyers that there is no automatic right to an injunction in patent infringement cases that involve complex products, Lovesaid. In his view, that is a good thing.