Oct 24th – As reported by Arstechnica - An ITC judge ruled that four Samsung phones infringed Apple patents. If the ruling holds, it most likely means some Samsung products will 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. Patent7,479,949 is related to multi-touch screen navigation, and also has Jobs listed as an inventor. PatentRE41,922 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.
Samsung is also under investigation by the US Dept of Justice for its use in standard setting patents. In legal papers filed at the International Trade Commission recently uncovered and revealed by Apple, Samsung is being investigated by the Department of Justice over possible antitrust issues tied to the company’s use of standards-essential patents. That’s in addition to an investigation being conducted by European regulators, which was already revealed earlier this year.
Jobs will be smiling at this type of news.