Apple Loses Appeal in Samsung Smartphone Case

Apple Inc. lost an appeals court ruling Friday that means Samsung Electronics Co. won’t have to pay it $119.6 million over patents for smartphone features.

Two Apple patents, including one for its slide-to-unlock feature, are invalid and a third wasn’t infringed, a U.S. appeals court ruled.

The decision not only ensures Samsung doesn’t have to write another check to Apple; it also can continue using the smartphone features and won’t have to make any changes to older models.

The appeals court threw out the verdict that Apple had won, but upheld a jury finding that the iPhone maker has to pay a $158,400 damage award for infringing a Samsung patent on video compression.

The case is one of two major suits between the companies, which is all that’s left of a global patent war that began in April 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of “slavishly” copying the iPhone. An Apple victory in the other case, involving the patented designs of the phone, was upheld on appeal and is awaiting possible consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The appeals court ruling is “clearly a loss for Apple,” said Paul Berghoff, a patent lawyer with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago who’s not involved in the case.

Berghoff, who’s likened the fight between the handset makers to sumo wrestlers trying to tire the other out, said the market has changed since the smartphone wars began, plus Apple is more focused on battling the FBI over privacy and security issues.

Settlement Odds?

“Will this put the Apple executives in a more willing frame of mind to settle? Possibly,” he said. “This is certainly going to invigorate Samsung.”

Rachel Wolf Tulley, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, said the company had no comment. Danielle Meister Cohen, a Samsung spokeswoman, said the company was preparing a statement.

In this case, Apple claimed that Samsung infringed patents for the slide-to-unlock feature, autocorrect and a way to detect phone numbers that can then be touched to make phone calls. The autocorrect patent is invalid and the detection patent wasn’t infringed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted on its electronic docket.

The court upheld the jury’s verdict that two other Apple patents, for universal search and background syncing, weren’t infringed.

Samsung had a counterclaim related to video compression. The jury said Apple infringed one patent and not the other; the appeals court agreed.

A Federal Circuit panel in September said Apple was entitled to a narrow order that would have forced Samsung to remove the slide-to-unlock and other features that were found to infringe the Apple patents. Two Federal Circuit judges were on both panels.

The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 2015-1171, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington).

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