Samsung loses another big patent case to Apple, this time at ITC

Samsung logoSamsung can't seem to catch a break. Just last night, it was revealed the company is under investigation by the Department of Justice for its use of standard-setting patents. Today comes much worse news—a serious loss to Apple at the International Trade Commission.

An ITC judge ruled [PDF] four Samsung phones infringed four Apple patents. If the ruling holds up, it means a variety of Samsung products are likely to be banned from the US market. Kicking Samsung products off the market is the type of relief Apple is also seeking from the federal court trial it recently won in San Jose; however, it may or may not get such an order. The judge has yet to rule on those post-trial motions.

The Apple patents deemed infringed include one design patent and three utility patents. The design patent, D618,678, includes a diagram of the exterior of an iPhone, and has Apple higher-ups like Jonathan Ives and Steve Jobs listed as co-inventors. Patent 7,479,949 is related to multi-touch screen navigation, and also has Jobs listed as an inventor. Patent RE41,922 relates to how images are blended when more than one application runs at once; and patent 7,912,501 describes an audio plug that can tell if a microphone or non-microphone related device has been plugged in.

Samsung was found not to have violated design patent D558,757 or patent 7,789,697, which also describes a type of audio plug. Interestingly, Apple was found to not be practicing the '697 patent at all. (A patent holder doesn't have to practice their patents in order to sue in district court—thus, patent trolls exist—but any company going to the ITC for relief has to, in theory at least, show that a "domestic industry" exists that uses their patents.)

It's not immediately clear from the order what Samsung phones will be affected, but they will surely include some or all of the ones Apple mentioned in its initial complaint. Those phones include the Samsung Fascinate, Galaxy S 4G, Intercept, Transform, Captivate, and Infuse 4G. The Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Tab 10.1 were also accused.

The ITC order issued today is an "initial determination," and the judge's decision must still be affirmed by the full commission. That should occur in February. It's not at all unusual for the full commission to undo some or all of an ITC judge's ruling, so this is far from wrapped up for Apple. Finally, the decision by the full ITC can still be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

The judge is the one who saw the evidence at trial, and his determination counts for a great deal. Overall, this is a clear loss and another sign that Samsung is losing its global patent battle with Apple.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Apple, legal action, Samsung

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