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US Court Throws Out Apple’s £87m Samsung Verdict

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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Unanious decision rejects Apple’s claims of patent violation and invalidates two of Apple’s patents

A US appeals court on Friday threw out a $120 million (£87m) jury verdict against Samsung, handing the South Korean company its first major win against Apple in the companies’ long-running smartphone patent battle.

A unanimous three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington DC, the US’ highest court specialising in patent issues, ruled that one of the three Apple patents involved in the case wasn’t infringed, while the other two were obvious and should never have been issued.

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Claims rejected

The court also found that Apple had infringed one of the patents cited by Samsung in its counterclaim.

The ruling means that not only will Apple forfeit the $120m awarded by a federal court in San Jose, California in 2014, but faces paying Samsung for infringement of its patent, and may also be obliged by the court to reimburse Samsung’s legal costs, which could run to tens of millions of pounds. The $120m award was only about 5 percent of the roughly $2.5bn Apple had demanded in the original case, filed in 2012. Apple may petition for the case to be reheard.

“Today’s decision is a win for consumer choice and puts competition back where it belongs – in the marketplace, not in the courtroom,” Samsung said in a statement.

Apple declined to comment.

Nearly $99m of the $120m award was for infringement of Apple’s “quick links” patent, which describes a method for turning data on a touchscreen into information that can be used to launch a telephone call.

No proof

In their opinion (PDF), however, the appeals judges said Samsung hadn’t been shown to be using the technique outlined in Apple’s patent.

“Apple failed to prove, as a matter of law, that the accused Samsung products use an ‘analyser server’ as we have previously construed that term,” the judges wrote.

Apple’s two other patents in the case, the “slide-to-unlock” patent and a patent on text auto-correction, were held to be obvious compared to previous inventions. The court also rejected Apple’s claim that Samsung had copied the auto-correct method outlined in its patent and used in the iPhone, citing significant differences in the approach used by Samsung.

The court upheld Samsung’s counter-claim that Apple had violated a patent relating to camera systems and image compression, along with a jury verdict that Samsung should be paid $158,400.

Samsung in December paid Apple $548.2m in damages from a separate patent case, which Samsung has appealed to the US Supreme Court, which is to hold a discussion on 4 March.

‘Humiliation’

Florian Mueller, an industry analyst who follows patent issues, said the ruling indicates that Apple’s strategy of a major offensive against the Android operating system used by Samsung and other device makers was flawed.

“It’s a humiliation for Apple,” he said in an advisory. “The outcome couldn’t have been worse. Apple has lost its offensive case 100 percent, but Samsung’s symbolic win (over one of two counterclaims) has been upheld… Apple should finally put an end to this Samsung litigation.”

Apple and Samsung settled most of their existing litigation in 2014, but that settlement didn’t affect their US cases.

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