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March 27 2013


August 25 2012


Triple damages and injunctions: what comes next for Apple and Samsung

Apple has just mopped the floor with Samsung in an epic patent trial in which a jury issued a $1.05 billion verdict. Now, the fun really begins. In the next phase, Apple can ask the judge to triple the prize. Here’s a plain English guide to what happens next:

Why does Samsung owe $1 billion in the first place?

After a month long trial in San Jose, a jury found Friday that Samsung’s phones and tablets infringed on various Apple patents related to the iPhone and iPad. The jury said the various infringements added up to $1.05 billion.

So what is this about tripling damages?

If a jury finds that someone willfully infringed on a patent, the Patent Act says ”the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed.” (emphasis ours) Guess what? The jury found that Samsung’s actions were willful. This means that Apple can now go to Judge Lucy Koh and ask her to triple the figure. But that doesn’t mean she has to do it.

Can Judge Koh do anything for Samsung?

Yes, the judge has the power to lower the damages if she finds that no “rational jury” could have awarded such an amount. This has occurred in previous tech cases. Koh can also overrule the jury’s findings that Apple’s patents are valid in the first place.

But what about the products that Samsung is still selling? Can Apple put a stop to that?

This is where it gets interesting. Since some of Samsung’s products are still on the market, Apple is coming back to court next month to ask Judge Koh to issue an injunction to ban them. But this appears unlikely due to a 2008 Supreme Court decision that made injunctions far less common.

Apple, however, can also ask for ongoing damages since Samsung is still selling the offending products.

This will end up on appeal, right?

Yes, almost certainly. But not right away. First Samsung will take a crack at knocking down some of the jury’s findings before Judge Koh. They will ask for a “judgment not withstanding verdict” — asking Koh to substitute her conclusion for that of the jury. But again, she will only do so if she believes a “rational jury” couldn’t have made such decisions in the first place.

Could this happen? According to Professor Sarah Burstein, a patent authority at the University of Oklahoma, Judge Koh is unlikely to disturb the jury’s finding. Burstein predicts that Samsung will try to raise “lots of nit-picking stuff about the evidence,” but that Koh won’t bite.

Once Koh replies to requests for a “judgment not withstanding verdict,” then the final verdict will be entered and the parties can appeal to the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC.

Anything else I should know?

The most important thing to take away is that this is far from settled. According to Burstein, the Federal Circuit has been very active in reviewing district courts, especially when it comes to damages.

“Whatever happens in the coming days, for now you have to just pencil in the damages,” she said.

August 21 2012


The next phase of the Apple Samsung case: straw polls and sandwiches

Lawyers will make closing statements today in what has been dubbed the technology trial of the century. The epic dust-up between Apple and Samsung is far from over, though. Here is a plain English guide to how the jury will decide the verdict, how the judge can overrule them and what happens next.

What exactly is going on today?

After almost a month long trial, this is the finale for Apple and Samsung lawyers. Each side will sum up for the jury why their opponent ripped off their technology, and why the other sides’ patents are not valid. The judge will then give instructions to the jury and tell them to complete a 22-page form that will provide the answers.

The form makes an IRS look simple by comparison. It requires the jury to say if a dozen or so Samsung-related products like the Droid phone and Galaxy tablets violate patents for the iPhone and the iPad. Likewise, jurors will have to say whether Apple’s products infringed the Samsung gadgets. If the jurors find infringement, they will also have to decide if the copycat did it on purpose and how much they should pay. And there is more. They will also have to plumb other arcane corners of intellectual property law like “trade dress” and “prior art.”

To get a flavor of what the jury will face, here are sample questions from the proposed jury form:

What will the jury do then?

Possibly as soon as today, the nine jurors will march off to the jury room to hash things out. Typically, they begin by electing a foreman although there is no requirement for them to do so. (Alas, there is no “hipster juror” like the one who provided laughs in a recent New York trial.)

Will they just dive right in or take a straw poll first?

According to Brad Lyerla, a senior patent attorney with Jenner & Block, the first thing most juries do is take a straw poll about the verdict. Lyerla says jury research shows that the outcome of this initial poll will almost always reflect the final verdict — even if that straw poll produces a tight 5-4 vote. What this means is that a majority of the jurors will have already made up their minds and will eventually persuade the others to join them.

Does the jury have to be unanimous?

In this court, yes.

What if they can’t reach a consensus?

If they can’t agree on anything, that means a mistrial and back to square one. But there are dozens of issues to decide in this case and the jury will almost certainly come to a decision on most or all of them. Those decisions will stand and a failure to reach agreement on some questions will not derail the whole case.

How long will it take the jury to reach a decision?

“There are many claims and different issues of law. This is not an up-or-down, yes or no type of verdict. It will be a matter of days. It won’t be less than a day,” said Peter Toren, a veteran IP litigator with Weisbrod, Matheis & Copley.

Will there be any clues ahead of time?

“The jury room is sacrosanct,” said Lyerla. Lawyers might hear rumors from a bailiff that the jurors were yelling but otherwise the process is secret. The jury may also send out a question to the judge. “People like to read those questions like the entrails of a goat.”

Does the jury get to leave? 

If Judge Lucy Koh orders them to remain in the courthouse, the court will pick up the tab for a lunch order. “One day it’s pizza day, or hamburgers or sandwiches .. It’s not lavish,” said Lyerla. “It’s like an office setting where you’re having a meeting at lunch time.”

Is it the end when the jury finally issues a verdict?

It’s the end for the jurors but, for Apple and Samsung, it’s more like the end of the beginning. Both Toren and Lyerla say the companies will likely ask for a “judgment not withstanding verdict,” a request for Judge Koh to replace the jury’s conclusion with one of her own. She can do this if she concludes no “rational jury” would have come to a particular decision. Once the final verdicts are entered, the companies can then appeal. “This could go on for a year,” said Lyerla.

(Images by Everett Collection and Alita Bobrov via Shutterstock)

August 03 2012


July 30 2012


Apple/Samsung suit begins today

The big patent infringement trial between Apple and Samsung kicks off today in a California court, as noted by The New York Times. With infringement claims pending against both companies, there's a lot at stake.

As pointed out by Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune's Apple 2.0, the trial can be summarized by the first few lines in each company's pre-trial brief.

Apple: "Samsung is on trial because it made a deliberate decision to copy Apple's iPhone and iPad." Samsung: "In this lawsuit, Apple seeks to stifle legitimate competition and limit consumer choice to maintain its historically exorbitant profits."

To help you get up-to-date on the long-standing dispute, The Verge has a detailed post describing both Samsung's case against Apple and Apple's case against Samsung. Written by Matt Macari and Nilay Patel, the post also tells you what to expect during the trial. You can also check out AllThingsD, which has a cheat sheet that spells out the major points of the legal battle; writer Ina Fried is covering the trial in person.

[Via Fortune 2.0, The Verge and AllThingsD]

Apple/Samsung suit begins today originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Mon, 30 Jul 2012 12:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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