By Dennis Crouch
Apple v. Samsung (N.D.Cal 2012)
The jury must have read my recent post on Monsanto's $1b verdict and wanted to do one better – awarding Apple $1.05 billion in patent infringement damages.
Apple has won its patent case against Samsung and the nine-member jury has awarded $1.05 billion to the iManufacturer. The jury has also rejected Samsung's countersuit – finding the Samsung patents not-infringed.
Samsung's infringement is identified as "willful" – opening the door to potential punitive damages against Samsung. In patent cases, the judge (here, Judge Koh) is given the responsibility of determining whether to award punitive damages based upon a set of factors outlined in the law. In this case, the statute would limit potential patent damages to three-times the damages calculated by the jury. (The trade dress damages are not so limited).
Apple has also asked for an injunction to stop Samsung's ongoing infringement. However, US patent law places the decision on injunctive relief in the hands of the district court judge. The briefing on injunctive relief will take several weeks and Judge Koh has announced a September 20 hearing date. Judges have discretion to grant/deny injunctive relief based upon the four "eBay factors" defined by the US Supreme Court in 2006. When granting injunctive relief, the judge also has discretion to shape the relief as she sees fit. Some courts have issued broad injunctions that essentially say "stop infringing the patent" others issue much more narrow orders directed only toward the particular products that are adjudged to infringe. The reality is that Samsung has been planning for the likelihood of injunctive relief and is surely ready to stop selling any of the infringing products and replace those products with ones that at least have not yet been adjudged as infringing. Apple has another lawsuit pending against Samsung focusing on Samsung's newer handheld devices.
If an injunction is issued, a big question is whether relief will be stayed pending appeal. An adjudged infringer generally has no right to continue infringing while the case is on appeal. However, courts will stay injunctive relief when the stay prevents great potential harm and/or the appellant has a strong case on appeal. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Apple will NOT receive the $1 billion damages until after the appeal is complete. However, Samsung would be required to post a "supersedeas bond" that may be to be set by the court, but will certainly be several hundred million dollars. During the appeal or any other delay in payment, the damages will collect interest.
Next Steps: Samsung has two basic shots at overturning the jury verdict. First, the company can file a motion for judgment against the verdict (JNOV) arguing that the jury verdict goes against the weight of the evidence. Although I do not have specific numbers, it is not uncommon for judges to at least partially reject a jury verdict in complex cases such as this. Based upon what I have read of the case, I believe that Judge Koh is unlikely to alter the jury verdict. Anyone researching this point should consider Judge Koh's history of JNOV motions. If Samsung's pleas to the court fail, the company can appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. In that appeal, the odds are also with Apple. On this note, Samsung has announced that it will follow my strategy outlined above. In a press release, the company wrote "This is not the final word in this case or in battles being waged in courts and tribunals around the world, some of which have already rejected many of Apple's claims."