William Lee of WilmerHale ()
A year after the Obama administration’s highly unusual intervention in the case, an appeals court has killed off the last of Samsung Electronics Co.’s patent claims against Apple Inc. at the U.S. International Trade Commission.
In a one-sentence order issued Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the ITC’s determination that Apple doesn’t infringe a Samsung patent that’s essential to wireless industry standards. The decision, which extends a winning streak for Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr at the Federal Circuit, comes just a week after an oral argument that pitted Wilmer’s William Lee against his perennial adversary in the Apple-Samsung fight, Charles Verhoeven of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.
Samsung originally brought the case back in 2010. The ITC ruled in June 2013 that Apple infringed one of the four patents at issue, a so-called standards-essential patent (SEP). As a remedy, the agency issued an exclusion order that barred Apple from selling certain infringing devices, including older versions of the iPhone.
In an extremely rare move, however, the U.S. Trade Representative lifted the injunction in July 2013. The White House cited concerns that the ITC exclusion order could encourage patent owners to play hardball with SEPs, which companies are obligated to license on fair and reasonable terms.
The White House intervention wasn’t the end of the story. Samsung still had the option of appealing the ITC’s finding of noninfringement as to the three other patents, one of which was standards-essential. Samsung ended up targeting only that patent in its Federal Circuit appeal—a maneuver that drew skepticism from the influential IP blogger Florian Mueller. “Samsung’s choice indicates that it doesn’t believe too much in the strength of its non-SEPs-in-suit,” Mueller wrote last November.
Wednesday’s decision is the latest in a string of recent victories at the Federal Circuit for Wilmer appellate litigators. On May 8 Lee won a ruling that ended an inventorship dispute between his client General Electric Co. and a former GE engineer. On May 9 Seth Waxman persuaded the court to affirm sanctions his client the Monsanto Co. won against E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. in their billion-dollar herbicide patent fight. Lauren Fletcher, a Lee protégé, won a ruling the same day that Wilmer client VGo Communications Inc. doesn’t infringe patents owned by rival robot-maker InTouch Technologies Inc.