Apple Wins Injunction Against Samsung in Federal Circuit for Patent Infringement

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit handed Apple another victory against Samsung by holding that Apple should have been awarded an injunction barring Samsung from selling products that infringe its patents covering smartphone components, such as iPhone’s slide-to-unlock, autocorrect, and data detection features. Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, No. 14-1802 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 17, 2015).

The decision has provided an easier hurdle for obtaining injunctive relief against multi-component devices such as cell phones.  Under this decision, to show a “causal nexus” between the infringement and alleged irreparable harm required for injunctive relief, the patent owner only needs to show “some connection” between the patented feature and consumer demand for the infringing product, which can be shown in “a variety of ways.”

For example, “evidence that a patented feature is one of several features that cause consumers to make their purchasing decisions,” “evidence that the inclusion of a patented feature makes a product significantly more desirable,” and “evidence that the absence of a patented feature would make a product significantly less desirable.”

The Federal Circuit stated that the lower court abused its discretion when it denied Apple an injunction after a jury ordered Samsung to pay $120 million in May 2014 for infringing three of Apple’s patents.

This decision was so important that Samsung had a number of major tech corporations, including Google, HTC, and LG, backing it, since the ruling could have wide-ranging effects on the patent landscape.  For example, for devices that have a variety of patents and features, this holding could make it easier for patent holders to intimidate competitors of potential product bans, and giving more leverage during negotiations.

Apple prevailed in a 2-1 holding, which stated that “[t]his is not a case where the public would be deprived of Samsung’s products…. Apple does not seek to enjoin the sale of lifesaving drugs, but to prevent Samsung from profiting from the unauthorized use of infringing features in its cellphones and tablets.”

“This ruling reinvigorates patent holders in keeping companies off the market,” said Rutgers University law professor Michael Carrier. “Apple now has a weapon it can use in two ways: in future litigation with Samsung and others, and in settlement negotiations.”

Samsung called Apple’s injunction request “unfounded” and will ask the full slate of Federal Circuit judges to review Thursday’s decision, and if unsuccessful, is reportedly planning to file a petition in the US Supreme Court by November.