Apple wins ruling to end Samsung’s smartphone infringement

Samsung should have been forced to stop using three of Apple’s smartphone patents when they were found to be infringing, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Thursday. 

The decision Thursday is a major victory for Apple over its largest manufacturing rival — and could have broader implications for the use of smartphone patents. 

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In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel ruled Apple was entitled to injunctive relief against Samsung, in addition to the nearly $120 million that a lower court already awarded the iPhone maker in the case. 

“The right to exclude competitors from using one’s property rights is important,” the court ruled. “And the right to maintain exclusivity — a hallmark and crucial guarantee of patent rights deriving from the Constitution itself — is likewise important.”

Judge Kimberly Moore wrote the decision, and Judge Jimmie Reyna concurred. Chief Judge Sharon Prost dissented. 

The case dates back to Apple’s lawsuit in 2012 alleging Samsung infringed on multiple patents for new touchscreen smartphones, including slide lock, autocorrect and the process in which iPhones can detect phone numbers or addresses in text and automatically create a hyperlink. 

Apple claimed the patents, especially “slid to unlock,” was crucial to the popularity and sale of its 2007 iPhone. Samsung paid close attention to the product and tried to incorporate Apple’s technology, according to the record. 

Thursday’s ruling found that the patents were important to the sale of Apple’s smartphones and that the company suffered irreparable harm due to Samsung’s infringement. 

“If an injunction were not to issue in this case, such a decision would virtually foreclose the possibility of injunctive relief in any multifaceted, multifunction technology,” the court ruled Thursday. 

Prost dissented from the ruling and argued the majority relied on evidence featured nowhere in the record. She described Apple’s patents in question as related to “minor features.”

The majority ruling Thursday is a reverse from the district court judge, who determined that infringement of the specific Apple patents in question could not be traced back to a loss of sales, because smartphones rely on so many different patented technologies. 

The lower court already awarded Apple a huge payout for the infringement claims but declined to grant Apple’s request for an injunction that would force Samsung to design around the infringing patents and would prevent the company from making or selling the software. 

The case will now go back to the district court to be resolved.