A federal appeals court opinion issued Friday could change the schedule in the patent infringement trial between Apple and Samsung.
The trial entered its final stretch Friday as testimony wrapped up in the lawsuit in which Apple is demanding more than $2 billion in damages from Samsung. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning, but the ruling issued Friday morning in a separate case involves one of the patents at the center of Apple v. Samsung.
The ruling, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, is related to a prior lawsuit between Apple and Motorola that involved U.S. Patent 5,946,647, which describes the technology that recognizes things like phone numbers and email addresses, and adds contextual menus, such as "add to phone book" or "dial number."
The patent describes the way such a system works, including "an analyzer server for detecting structures in the data, and for linking actions to the detected structures." The appeals court took up the question of what is meant by an analyzer server and agreed with the court's original determination, which Apple had opposed.
"We disagree with Apple and affirm the district court's claim construction," the appeals court said in its opinion.
An upshot of that decision is a possible change in claims that Apple is making in respect to the '647 patent and the questions posed to the jury.
But whether that will happen is unclear.
"I feel frustrated that this case has been pending since February 2012, it's been over two years, and no one has ever asked me to construe this," said Judge Lucy Koh before Friday morning's testimony. "Now we have 50 minutes left and you're saying we need to reopen everything."
Koh and the lawyers for both sides hadn't had a chance to examine the appeals court's opinion in detail before court began Friday, so they talked about the potential course of action.
"Just because another district court judge somewhere else in the country has construed a claim a certain way, I don't have to adopt that," she said.
It might mean that both sides get to present a limited amount of additional testimony Monday morning when the jury returns. That in turn could push closing arguments to Tuesday.
Several other legal issues also need to be decided before Monday morning, including the precise wording and design of the jury's verdict form.
Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org