A South Korean court has ruled that both Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. infringed each other’s patents and has ordered a halt to sales in the country of certain products from both companies.
The Friday decision by the Seoul Central District Court comes as a California jury continues deliberations in the largest of several lawsuits between the two companies around the world. Apple claims Samsung’s Galaxy line of phones and tablet computers infringes a number of design and technology patents relating to its own iPhone and iPad products. Samsung has counterclaimed that Apple has infringed a number of its wireless technology patents.
In the case before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple is seeking between $2.5 billion and $2.7 billion in damages, while Samsung is asking for $519 million. In Korea, the monetary stakes have been somewhat lower. Apple was ordered to pay $22,000 to Samsung, while Samsung was ordered to pay $40,000 to Apple.
According to the Associated Press, the three-judge Seoul panel ordered Samsung to stop sales of its Galaxy S2 handset and several other products in Korea because the company had infringed on Apple patents relating to the screen’s bouncing-back ability. At the same time, Apple was ordered to halt the sale of earlier models of the iPhone and iPad because they relied upon two of Samsung’s telecommunications patents. The companies had not targeted each other’s newest models in the Korea litigation.
Both companies turned to top Korean firms for the Seoul litigation. Apple was represented by Jay Yang, head of the intellectual property practice at Kim & Chang, Korea’s largest firm. Young-Hill Liew, head of IP for Yulchon, defended Samsung against Apple’s claims while Lee & Ko partner Young Mo Kwon took the lead on Samsung’s affirmative claims.* All the firms declined to comment on the decision or whether there would be an appeal. Neither Apple nor Samsung responded to requests for comments.
One Seoul-based intellectual property lawyer says Samsung was seen to be the de facto winner because Apple lost on its design claims and Samsung no longer uses the bouncing-back technology at issue in the case.
“So the court order does not affect Samsung’s business,” says Won Cho, a partner with Korean law firm Bae, Kim & Lee who is not involved in the case. But Apple, he notes, still hopes to sell its older iPhones and iPads in Korea, so the ruling has a material affect on the company’s business in the country.
Samsung is Korea’s largest corporation and one of its best-known global brands. For those reasons as well its presumed familiarity with the Korean legal system, some observers had said an adverse ruling in Seoul would have looked worse for Samsung than Apple.
“If they lose this ruling it will be symbolically terrible for Samsung,” Nathan McMurray, a foreign lawyer with Seoul’s Barun Law Firm told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
*Updated, 8/31/12: The original version of this story was updated to note the role in the case of Lee & Ko partner Young Mo Kwon.