The most recent rulings in the high-stakes patent war between Apple and Samsung brought mostly good news for Apple’s lawyers.
As part of four post-trial orders issued late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose upheld the jury’s $1.05 billion verdict in favor of Apple Inc. and rejected Samsung Electronics Co.’s request for a new trial.
But in a silver lining for Samsung, Koh reversed the jury’s finding of willful infringement and denied Apple’s bid to add $535 million to the jury’s August verdict.
Speaking to the basic fairness of the trial, Koh wrote: “The trial was fairly conducted, with uniform time limits and rules of evidence applied to both sides. A new trial would be contrary to the interests of justice.”
Samsung’s legal team at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan methodically attacked the validity of each Apple patent in their post-trial motions and also complained about trial procedures, such as time limits.
Koh wrote that Samsung and Apple litigated on an equal playing field and each side chose how to best allocate their time.
“Samsung cannot now argue that its own litigation strategy created a manifest injustice that requires a new trial,” she wrote.
Though ultimately unsuccessful in dislodging the verdict, Samsung’s aggressive challenges clearly weighed in Koh’s decision to nullify the jury’s finding that Samsung willfully infringed five Apple patents, including those related to its pinch-and-zoom technology and to the overall shape and design of the iPhone.
Relying on a recent case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Koh said it was the role of the judge, not the jury, to determine whether Samsung acted “despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.”
Because Samsung relied on “reasonable, if ultimately unsuccessful” defenses, the company’s infringement was not objectively willful, Koh concluded, closing the door on Apple’s request to treble certain components of the jury’s damages award.
The judge separately rejected a bid from Apple’s lawyers at Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr for an additional $400 million under the Lanham Act as compensation for lost market share.
Among other key findings from the 94 pages of decisions Koh released Tuesday:
• Apple’s patent on a tap-and-zoom feature is not invalid due to indefiniteness. Koh previously called key language in the patent “mushy” and wrote that Samsung raised close questions related to the patent’s description of an area on a screen as “substantially centered.” In a 15-page ruling on the subject, Koh pointed to Federal Circuit decisions upholding patents that used the term “substantially.”
“The evidence suggests that persons of ordinary skill in the art can understand the meaning of the term ‘substantially centered,’” Koh concluded.
• Factual inconsistencies in the jury’s verdict do not warrant a new trial. Koh agreed with Samsung that the jury reached conflicting conclusions when it found certain devices violated Apple’s patented technology, while finding other devices using the same software did not infringe. However, Koh said there was no legal conflict and the seeming inconsistencies did not mandate a new trial.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Samsung said the company had no comment.
Koh has yet to rule on Samsung’s motion seeking reductions to the jury’s monetary award or a new trial on damages.