Apple v. Samsung: Judge Refuses Sales Ban on Samsung Smartphones

(San Jose Mercury News/MCT) -

Apple is not entitled to a court-ordered sales ban on nine Samsung smartphones found earlier this year to violate the iPhone maker’s patent rights, a San Jose, Calif., federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

In a 42-page ruling guided by several previous appeals-court decisions in the fiercely contested case, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh rejected Apple’s arguments that it would be irreparably harmed if Samsung continues selling the infringing smartphones on the U.S. market.

A federal jury in May hit Samsung with $120 million in damages for copying iPhone technology, in the second trial between the two feuding tech titans, although the panel did reject many of the patent claims and dramatically reduced the damage award Apple was seeking.

Koh, who has presided over the four-year legal battle, took the position that Apple has secured enough from its chief rival in the smartphone and tablet wars. As a result, she concluded no permanent injunction on an older line of Samsung phones, such as the Galaxy S3, is warranted.

“Apple has not satisfied its burden of demonstrating irreparable harm and linking that harm to Samsung’s exploitation of any of Apple’s three infringed patents,” the judge wrote. “Apple has not established that it suffered significant harm in the form of either lost sales or reputational injury.”

For Apple, it is the latest setback in the company’s bid to use its most powerful legal weapon against Samsung, which is the threat of injunctions on sales of lucrative smartphones and tablets for copying iPhone or iPad technology. With the courts reluctant to impose such sales bans, experts have wondered if Apple might be more inclined to settle its conflict with Samsung instead of pushing forward with lawsuits.

Apple and Samsung recently settled all of the patent litigation unfolding in courts in other countries, but have been unable to resolve their feud in the U.S.

Apple declined to comment on Koh’s ruling.

The ruling puts much of the patent battle in the hands of the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, a Washington, D.C.-based court that handles patent appeals. The court is already reviewing Samsung’s appeal of the first trial between the two companies, during which the South Korean company was slammed with close to $1 billion in damages.

It is not clear if Apple will continue to press for sales bans in the two cases in the appeals court. The Federal Circuit in the first case previously cautioned Koh against giving Apple an injunction on Samsung products.

In the second trial, the jury found Samsung violated two iPhone patents, including the slide-to-unlock feature, while Koh sided with Apple before trial on a third patent for its auto-word-correct technology.

With the court fight unfolding, both companies have continued to roll out newer lines of products, including Samsung’s Galaxy S5. Apple, meanwhile, is expected to unveil an iPhone 6 sometime in September, according to widespread reports.