Apple’s litigation with Samsung is truly a global affair that spans 3 continents and a multitude of countries. But if we zero in on where most of the action is taking place, we’re whisked away to the US District Court in North California where Apple and Samsung are currently engaged in a legal battle wherein Apple seeks a preliminary injunction that would prevent upcoming Samsung tablets and smartphones from hitting the market.
In the fast moving world of technology, today’s hot ticket item can easily become yesterday’s news in the blink of an eye. This isn’t lost on Apple as the company last week filed a motion seeking an expedited trial with Samsung claiming that if the Court waits too long to get this show on the road, Apple will suffer irreparable harm.
Let’s dive into Apple’s motion, shall we?
Apple comes out swinging and reminds the Court that Samsung itself has previously stated that the mobile devices at issue “have a shelf life of six months to a year max.” Curiously, though, Samsung at the same time asserts that time is not of the essence in the current proceeding.
In short, Apple accuses Samsung of attempting to delay the current litigation so that the very nature of the dispute will become moot as the devices at issue will have already seen their most popular days behind them. From there, Samsung will simply release a new set of infringing products and go through the same song and dance, staying one step ahead of Apple and the legal system.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Samsung believes a trial on the patents at issue should commence in two years time because they need enough time to prepare for a case with 20 utility patents at issue. Apple scoffs at Samsung’s reasoning and points out that it was “Samsung that artificially inflated the scope of this case by interposing 12 more utility patents” via its countersuit in a blatant attempt to slow down the process. Indeed, Apple contends that the 12 patents asserted by Samsung should be considered separately from the patents Apple asserts and subsequently dealt with on a completely separate time table.
Delving into why an expedited trial is necessary, Apple writes:
As Samsung’s counsel noted, product cycles in the markets in which Apple and Samsung products compete are incredibly short. Because of that rapid pace, justice delayed truly is justice denied. Without rapid adjudication of its claims, Apple’s hard-earned intellectual property is devalued, Apple’s iconic products may lose distinctiveness, Samsung’s imitation products flourish, and the creativity that so infuses Apple’s product design is misappropriated.
Apple contents that its motion for an expedited trial should be granted for the same reason its motion for expedited discovery was granted – namely that one can reasonably prove that Samsung’s products are designed to copy Apple’s and that Apple will suffer irreparable harm in the form of lost market share and consumer good will if the motion is not granted.
In a display of logical ineptitude, Samsung counters that Apple is not at risk to suffer irreparable harm. Samsung argues that Apple provided no evidence of a nexus between an increase in Samsung’s smartphone marketshare and a decrease in Apple’s. Pushing the envelope even further, Samsung claims that it’s products are succeeding in the marketplace on account of their merits, and points out bigger and better screens and faster download times as examples.
Copying Apple’s hardware and software design? Nah, that surely can’t be an important part of Samsung’s success.
Apple subsequently takes Samsung to task for its tenuous argument.
Samsung’s argument makes no sense. Samsung’s sale of the accused products has indisputably enabled Samsung to take market share from Apple. There is a direct nexus between Samsung’s sale of the accused products and the resulting changes in market share. Apple’s evidence that Samsung has copied Apple’s intellectual property is in no way rebutted by the screen size or download speeds of Samsung’s products, which are features that have no relevance to Apple’s claims. If Samsung is selling infringing products, Apple is entitled to an injunction prohibiting such sales. Samsung cannot avoid an injunction on the ground that its products are allegedly “better” in other irrelevant respects.
Apple further argues that it will suffer directly if Samsung can continue to release Apple look-alike products for a lengthy period of time. Compounding Apple’s predicament, Apple writes that this may encourage other infringers to copy as well.
Again, Apple accuses Samsung of trying to slow down the case by injecting 12 new patent claims into the equation. As such, Samsung claims it needs more time to adequately prepare. But Apple tells the Court that it only wants an expedited trial for the 8 patent claims that it initially filed.
Indeed, if behavior like Samsung’s proves successful, what’s to prevent other companies accused of infringement from delaying proceedings by simply infusing an inordinate number of patents in its counterclaim. This dynamic would prove to be especially problematic in a technology case like this where time is of the essence and products have tremendously short shelf lives.
Backing up its claims, Apple points out that Courts have historically severed patent counterclaims from the initial lawsuit provided that they concern entirely different issues from the original patent claims. Blindly lumping all patent claims together is a prime recipe for jury confusion.
All of Samsung’s patents involve different technical areas, different inventors, different file histories, and different issues of claim construction, infringement, and invalidity. Apple’s utility patents generally relate to the remarkable, game-changing user interface of its iPhone and iPad products. In contrast, seven of Samsung’s patents (the ’604, ’410, ’792, ’011, 15 ’516, and ’941 patents) relate to the entirely different subject of wireless communications.
As for the other 5 patents raised by Samsung, one relates to MP3 files, one involves a world clock function, and another focuses on camera functionality. Indeed, Apple writes that only one of the 12 patents Samsung brings to the table concern a products user interface, and that patent centers on dividing a device’s display into 2 separate areas while composing a text message, a feature none of Apple’s patents address.
Furthermore, Apple argues that 7 of the patents Samsung asserts are subject to FRAND terms meaning that since they’re part of an industry standard, Samsung is obligated to license those technologies out to Apple at reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Apple notes that Samsung has not done this and indeed filed a counterclaim of its own claiming that Samsung is in breach of its contractual obligations to comply with its licensing obligations.
Because Samsung has never sought expedited relief on its patent counterclaims, they are already on a slower track than Apple’s claims. Apple has already received some expedited discovery on its claims, and the parties are currently conducting expedited discovery concerning Apple’s preliminary injunction motion. In contrast, no discovery has been taken in connection with Samsung’s counterclaims. Indeed, the pleadings on Samsung’s counterclaims are not even complete.
Pretty convenient for Samsung.
Apple also points out some tomfoolery from Samsung.
Apple initially filed its lawsuit against Samsung in April. Following that, Samsung initiated a completely new and separate lawsuit against Apple bringing forth its own allegations of patent infringement. But as soon as Apple notified Samsung on June 30 that it was going to move for an expedited trial, Samsung dismissed its countersuit and “re-filed its claims against Apple as counterclaims in this action at the very end of June 30 (11:10 p.m).
It’s plainly evident that Samsung’s actions here are solely motivated to slow Apple down in any way it can, even if it involves legal shenanigans and what Apple calls a “blatant tactical maneuver” that should not be condoned.
Going back to Samsung’s claims that it’s overwhelmed with too many patents to sufficiently prepare for trial, Apple calls BS and writes that “Samsung is fully prepared to litigate, as evidenced by the lawsuits Samsung has filed against Apple in multiple countries around the world.”
Not too surprisingly, Samsung has another BS argument up its sleeve. The motion mentions that Apple contacted Samsung in July 2010 immediately after the first alleged infringing Samsung product hit the market. Negotiations to resolve the issue went nowhere and resulted in the litigation at hand.
That said, Samsung quizzically claim that Apple should be barred from initiating its suit against Samsung because it chose to negotiate first and sue later. Apple astutely points out that companies should be encouraged for seeking non-legal remedies first instead of brazenly filing lawsuits at the drop of a hat. As such, the notion that Apple should be punished for seeking out a negotiated settlement is absurd.
Lastly, Samsung asserts that Apple forfeited its right to an expedited trial because they filed suit in the Northern District where most trials take about 23 months to commence. Apple counters and argues that the Northern District was the most logical place for it to file its lawsuit against Samsung. Not only is it where Apple’s headquarters are located, but it’s also in “a central area between the headquarters of the three Samsung defendants (Korea, New Jersey, and Texas.” Not only that, the city where the Northern District Court lies is “closer to Korean than almost any other city in the continental U.S.” So Apple contents that it “acted reasonably by filing this lawsuit in the forum with the strongest nexus.”
So what kind of time frame is Apple looking for here?
Apple believes discovery can be completed within 5 months along with an extra month to account for expert discovery. So Apple would ideally like trial to commence in February 2012 at the earliest given that a hearing on the matter is set to take place on August 24th.