Apple Has A Few Good Days In Patent Courts


Apple has brushed off legal challenges from HTC and Samsung but the future may not be so bright

Apple will be satisfied with a couple of court judgements that have relieved some of the patent pressure it is under.

The International Trade Commission (ITC), which provides expert advice to US legislative and government bodies, has sided with Apple against HTC’s accusations of patent infringements.

In a preliminary ruling, the administrative law judge rejected HTC’s claim that Apple had infringed four patents covering dialing technology and power management. The final judgement will not be given until next February.

Weak HTC arguments

In his patent issues blog, Florian Mueller, an IP analyst, observed: “I didn’t take it seriously from the day it was filed. The patents look weak. Even if they were successfully enforced, I doubt they would pose a serious threat to Apple. At the time HTC filed its complaint, its patent position was very weak and this was basically just a way of indicating a willingness to fight.”

HTC is also fighting Apple in the Delaware court over patents it holds for Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. The Taiwanese company wants to impose an injunction to stop imports of all of Apple’s mobile devices and Mac computers into the US.

Apple has also been making gains against Samsung in Europe. Last Friday, a Dutch court dismissed a case brought by Samsung to prevent Apple selling its iPhones in the region. The court decided that the Samsung patents were integral to the 3G standard and therefore fell under the Frand agreement. This means that Apple and Samsung will have to haggle over a fair, but small, licensing charge. Earlier this year, Apple successfully sued Samsung and gained a ban on its Galaxy smartphone sales in the Netherlands.

Apple is now translating the judgement into French and Italian to use in their defence of similar disputes in those countries.

Judge ponders Apple’s claims

Back in the US, Apple is suing Samsung in California in an attempt to stop Samsung selling its Galaxy tablets and phones until a hearing regarding patent and design infringements is heard. Judge Lucy Koh did not give an instant ruling last week because of doubts whether Apple can ultimately prove its case.

Analyst Mueller commented, “Still, there’s uncertainty as to the outcome since Samsung may have raised sufficient doubt about the validity of those patents to dissuade the judge from ordering a preliminary injunction.”

In an amusing incident Judge Koh held up a Galaxy Tab 10.0 in one hand and an iPad 2 in the other and asked the legal teams on each side if they could tell the difference. Predictably, the Apple attorneys could see no difference and the Samsung team could easily distinguish between them.

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