Apple again denied permanent US sales ban against Samsung products

Apple failed to provide enough evidence to warrant an injunction, legal damages should be sufficient

Apple has again been denied a permanent U.S. sales ban on 23 Samsung Electronics products that infringe on Apple patents.

In December 2012, Apple appealed a decision of Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, not to grant the company a sales ban on infringing Samsung products. The request for the ban came after a jury found Samsung products infringed on Apple patents and awarded Apple about US$1 billion in damages.

Apple's appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was partially successful, according to Koh in a document filed with the district court on Thursday. The appeals court recently ordered the district court to reconsider Apple's request for a permanent injunction against Samsung's infringement of three utility patents and the district court heard oral arguments on Jan. 30.

The three patents in suit all cover touch screen functionalities and are referred to as the pinch to zoom patent, the double-tap-to-zoom patent and the snap back patent which discloses a method for displaying an electronic document when a user scrolls beyond the edge of the document, according to the court document.

But after reconsidering the evidence, Judge Koh again denied Apple's request for a permanent sales ban on Samsung products.

"The Court concludes that Apple simply has not met its burden of proof to warrant an injunction," she wrote. "To persuade the Court to grant Apple such an extraordinary injunction -- to bar such complex devices for incorporating three touchscreen software features -- Apple bears the burden to prove that these three touchscreen software features drive consumer demand for Samsung's products. Apple has not met this burden," she added.

Apple had particularly tried to convince Koh with a user survey that was meant to demonstrate people were more willing to buy a smartphone when it had a particular feature.

However, the survey evidence does not demonstrate the patented features' effect on the price of a product, nor does it prove that the patented features' effect on demand for the product is significant, Koh said. The study also failed to appropriately consider non-infringing alternatives and a host of presentation issues were combined to inflate survey respondents' willingness to pay for the patented features, she said.

Koh also noted that "not a single market research study conducted outside of the context of litigation even asks about the patented features." Moreover, there are other studies commissioned by both Apple and Samsung to understand consumer preferences that showed that consumers value a multitude of features, she added.

Taking all evidence into account, it would be inequitable to enjoin Samsung's products from U.S. markets, Judge Koh said, adding that legal damages should be sufficient in this case because the patented invention is but a small component of the product the companies seek to produce.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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