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In the epic smart phone and tablet battle between Apple and Samsung, the third time may be a charm for Apple. While the Federal Circuit had two previous opportunities to discuss whether a preliminary injunction should be granted, on its third go-around, the Federal Circuit had to determine whether a district court in San Jose, California correctly determined that Apple was not entitled to permanent injunctive relief.
The Federal Circuit reviewed the district court's decision as it related to design patents, utility patents and trade dress. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court's decision as it related to the design patents and trade dress. What follows below is a discussion only related to the utility patents.
The battle of the smart phones began in 2011, when Apple sued Samsung for patent infringement and trade dress dilution. Following a trial, a jury found for Apple and awarded Apple more than $1 billion, which the district judge set aside a portion of, scheduling a new partial damages trial. Since Apple succeeded on the merits of its claims, it sought permanent injunctive relief and sought to prohibit Samsung from selling or importing the infringing products. Last December, the district court denied Apple's request for equitable relief.
Legal Analysis for Permanent Injunctive Relief
The Federal Circuit reviewed the district court's application of the four-part test espoused by the Supreme Court in eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C.. The Federal Circuit agreed on the district court's conclusions with regard to the last two factors: balance of hardships (neutral), and public interest (Samsung). However, the Federal Circuit found that the district court erred in finding that Apple did not show irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies.
With regard to irreparable harm, the Federal Circuit found that the district court did not engage in enough analysis, and directed the district court on remand to analyze the evidence of copying, and expert testimony to determine whether Apple is suffering irreparable harm.
With regard to the inadequacy of legal remedies, the Federal Circuit found that the district court made too much of Samsung's ability to pay, and Apple's past licensing practices. The Federal Circuit found that by doing so, the district court abused its discretion.
Though inquiries were made, neither party has commented, according to Reuters. This is not a full victory for Apple, but it has another chance at arguing that it should be entitled to injunctive relief. Whether Apple is successful or not, the more time that passes doesn't help the situation. We're guessing that Apple wants to speed things up.