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Apple loses against Samsung on three of four patents

The Federal Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s denial of a preliminary injunction against Samsung for products relating to three Apple patents, but said the court erred in its obviousness analysis regarding Apple’s design patent on the iPad

Apple had appealed a decision by the Northern District of California denying a preliminary injunction against Samsung regarding four iPhone and iPad-related patents.

While the Federal Circuit affirmed the denial on three patents (D593, 087; D618,677 and 7,469,381), the portion on the fourth patent (D504,889) was vacated and remanded due to the district court’s “legal error in one important respect”.

On remand, the district court must consider the two remaining questions on whether a preliminary injunction must be granted on patent 889: the balance of hardships to Apple and Samsung, and public interests.

In a smartphone and tablet war that transcends borders, this particular analysis centred on whether the design claimed in ‘889 would have been obvious to a designer of ordinary skill. For this, the district court relied on two prior art references – the 1994 Fidler Tablet and the TC1000 tablet by Hewlett-Packard Compaq.

Looking at the tablets’ symmetry and glass surface, the Federal Circuit found that a “side-by-side comparison of the two designs shows substantial differences in the overall visual appearance between the patent design and the Fidler reference”.

Samsung had contended that the district court correctly focused on the overall visual appearance rather than specific concepts that Apple pointed out.

“The district court’s error was to view the various designs from too high a level of abstraction,” the court said. “Fidler does not qualify as a primary reference simply by disclosing a rectangular tablet with four evenly rounded corners and a flat back.”

Morrison & Foerster represented Apple, while Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan represented Samsung.

For more coverage, visit Managing IP's dedicated page.

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