Apple v. Samsung: The District Court Issues Its Final Rulings Denying Motions for New Trial and Finding No Willful Infringement; Next Stop the Federal Circuit

February 4, 2013

In a set of mixed rulings for the parties, the district court denied the parties' motions for new trial, found Samsung did not willfully infringe Apple's patents, invalidated certain claims of one of Samsung's patents, denied Samsung's motion for indefiniteness of certain of Apple's patents and denied Apple's motion for enhanced damages.

Samsung moved for a new trial asserting that the trial was manifestly unfair. Samsung asserted that: "1) the trial time limitation prejudiced Samsung; (2) allowing Apple
to point out to the jury which Samsung witness were not called prejudiced Samsung; (3) Samsung's witnesses were barred from making some arguments, where Apple's witnesses were allowed to make other arguments; (4) Samsung was required to lay foundation for documents while Apple was not; (5) Samsung was forbidden to play advertisements while Apple was not; and (6) Samsung could not use depositions to cross-examine Apple's witnesses while Apple was allowed to used deposition testimony during cross examination."

The district court rejected each of these arguments, finding that none of them had merit. In particular, the district court was not impressed with Samsung's first argument that it did not have sufficient trial time. "None of these arguments merits a new trial. First, Samsung was offered the option of bifurcating its affirmative case, but chose not to do so. See ECF No. 1329 at 2 (minute order and case management order following July 24, 2012 hearing). Furthermore, Samsung and Apple had equal trial time and chose how to best allocate their allotted time. Id. Samsung cannot now argue that its own litigation strategy created a manifest injustice that requires a new trial. As the Court observed, "Samsung made a strategic decision to spend more time to cross-examine Apple witnesses during Apple's affirmative case than Apple used to present its affirmative case."

The district court rejected Apple's willfulness argument because evidence of copying by itself was insufficient to establish willfulness under Federal Circuit law. "To establish willful patent infringement, 'a patentee must show by clear and convincing evidence that the infringer acted despite an objectively high likelihood that its actions constituted infringement of a valid patent. The state of mind of the accused infringer is not relevant to this objective inquiry. If this threshold objective standard is satisfied, the patentee must also demonstrate that this objectively-defined risk. . . was either known or so obvious that it should have been known to the accused infringer.' In re Seagate Technology, LLC, 497 F.3d 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (internal citation omitted). Thus, the willfulness inquiry is a two-prong analysis, requiring an objective inquiry and a subjective inquiry. The objective inquiry is a question for the Court, and the subjective inquiry is a question for the jury. Bard Peripheral Vascular, Inc. v. W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., 682 F.3d 1003, 1007 (Fed. Cir. 2012)."

The district court then found that there was no objective evidence of willfulness because Samsung had reasonably relied on an invalidity defense for certain of the patents and a non-infringement defense for other patents. For example, the district court reasoned: "Accordingly, the Court finds that, objectively, Samsung's infringement of the '381 Patent was not willful, due to its reasonable reliance on an invalidity
defense. Because the objective willfulness prong is not satisfied, the Court need not examine the jury's finding on subjective willfulness."

In combination, these ruling largely leave the jury's verdict unscathed with some minor adjustments, the most significant of which may be the elimination of the jury's finding of willfulness. The next step in the case will be the appeal to the Federal Circuit, with both Apple and Samsung filing cross-appeals. We can expect that Apple will continue to press for a permanent injunction and for a finding of willfulness (and, if successful, a subsequent request for enhanced damages). We can also expect that Samsung will continue to seek to overturn the jury's verdict and, in particular, it is likely Samsung will focus on attempting to invalidate the Apple patents.

Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Case No. 11-CV-01846-LHK (N.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2013)

The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.