Federal Circuit Summarily Affirms Apple v. Samsung judgment without Merits Briefing

Apple v. Samsung (Fed. Cir. 2015) (SamsungSummaryAffirm)

Most recently in the patent battle between Apple and Samsung, district court Judge Koh awarded $550 million to Apple for based largely upon design patent infringement findings.  That awarded followed immediately after the Federal Circuit’s 2015 remand to Judge Koh “for immediate entry of final judgment.”  Samsung is again appealing the damages ruling, but meanwhile there remains the question of whether Samsung needs to go ahead and pay the money or can stay execution of the judgment.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow a party to stay payment of money damages (but not injunctive relief) pending appeal of a final judgment and upon payment of a “supersedeas bond.”

Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 62(d): Stay with Bond on Appeal. If an appeal is taken, the appellant may obtain a stay by supersedeas bond…. The bond may be given upon or after filing the notice of appeal or after obtaining the order allowing the appeal. The stay takes effect when the court approves the bond.

Here, Samsung requested that Judge Koh accept $600 million as the bond, but Apple objected – arguing that Samsung’s substantive appeal is frivolous.  Because Judge Koh had not ruled on the bond request, Samsung filed an emergency appeal to have the Bond accepted.  As part of its briefing, Apple also requested “Summary Affirmance” of the district court’s final judgment regarding the half-billion-dollar judgment.

In the appeal, the Federal Circuit has sided with Apple – not only refusing to grant the bond but also summarily affirming Judge Koh’s damages award (that was already subject to a prior appeal).

Summary affirmance is appropriate when “the position of one party is so clearly correct as a matter of law that no substantial question regarding the outcome of the appeal exists.” Joshua v. United States, 17 F.3d 378, 380 (Fed. Cir. 1994). We have reviewed the parties’ arguments and conclude that summary affirmance is appropriate.

The Federal Circuit had granted a temporary stay of execution of the award and indicated that the stay would continue for seven days and by that time Samsung must have paid the money or be in contempt of court (absent action from the en banc Federal Circuit court or the Supreme Court).

In all likelihood, Samsung will immediately (today or tomorrow) file a request for rehearing and the en banc court may agree with the adjudged infringer that the summary affirmance shortcut was too quick.  In its briefing, Samsung wrote:

A motion for approval of a supersedeas bond is not … the proper vehicle to decide or even address the merits of an appeal. Indeed, Apple cites no decision permitting such an inquiry in this context, let alone one disapproving a supersedeas bond based on such an inquiry.

If it ever reached the merits, Samsung has indicated its planned appeal strategy on the following questions:

  1. Whether the PTO’s final decision* invalidating a patent-in-suit is entitled to collateral estoppel effect in a pending federal court case.
  2. Whether a district court my enter a partial final judgment that does not satisfy Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 54(b).

Absent en banc rehearing, those issues will not be addressed in this case.

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* The “PTO Final Decision” raised by Samsung refers to one of Apple’s infringed patents – No 7,844,915.  That patent has been working its way through the third-party-requested ex parte reexamination process since 2012.  Most recently, the examiner issued a final rejection of the asserted claims and that judgment was affirmed by the PTAB and Apple’s request for rehearing denied.  The patent covers the “pinch-to-zoom” feature of Apple’s iPhone.

9 thoughts on “Federal Circuit Summarily Affirms Apple v. Samsung judgment without Merits Briefing

  1. What does the AIA say about the collateral estoppel effect of IPR determinations (regarding resolution of the admin claim of patent validity)?

  2. Hmm. So if the rule for design patents is that all profits are to be awarded as damages and the utility patent damages would usually under Georgia-Pacific be a fraction of those same profits, then isn’t the utility patent outside the jurisdiction of the case?

    After all, there is no controversy. If the design patent case damages are awarded, those same dollars are going to be the utility patent damages. It doesn’t matter if the patent is valid or infringed: those dollars are Apple’s either way because of the design patent.

    So the question Samsung wants to delay the case over is inherently moot. Well, the Supremes could take up the design patent case and reverse it, I guess. Then the utility patent would be relevant again.

  3. “1.Whether the PTO’s final decision* invalidating a patent-in-suit is entitled to collateral estoppel effect in a pending federal court case.”

    I presume this issue was raised by Samsung in the district court and that Judge Koh decided adversely to Samsung. But is that part of the case final? This:

    “2.Whether a district court my enter a partial final judgment that does not satisfy Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 54(b),”

    indicates that the damages appeal is from a partial final judgment. That seems to pertain to the damages award. Not to any final judgment regarding Apple’s ‘915 pinch patent.

  4. the en banc court may agree with the adjudged infringer that the summary affirmance shortcut was too quick.

    Too quick for what? The order indicates that there were two motions; one of them was a motion for summary affirmance, which the court granted, presumably based on the adjudged infringer’s opposition brief and the record. Since when is an appellant entitled to have the court move slowly? I assume that Samsung responded to Apple’s motion with at least some arguments on the merits, as it seems to me that responding to a motion for summary affirmance by arguing that the court shouldn’t make a decision is a risky strategy.

      1. Dennis, it’s really astonishing that the court didn’t see fit to post this order on the public website, given the high profile of this case and the amount at stake in this order.

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