U.S. judge rebuffs Apple request for sales ban

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U.S. judge rebuffs Apple request for sales ban

A U.S. court Thursday rejected Apple’s appeal to ban more than 20 old products of Samsung Electronics, a decision that could put Samsung in a better position ahead of a court battle over newer products scheduled for late this month.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California, denied an injunction for a permanent sales ban of 23 Samsung products requested by Apple on the heels of the companies’ first U.S. patent trial in 2012.

The products, including the Galaxy S 4G and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet PC, are no longer available, but Apple has claimed the sales ban was necessary to prevent Samsung from producing similar products in the future.

In her ruling, Koh said Apple failed to provide sufficient evidence to support its claim that copied technology fueled demand for the Samsung mobile devices in question.

The judge said that the value of the smartphone features at issue, such as the touchscreen and zooming functions, was likely exaggerated in a consumer survey provided by Apple.

“A multitude of other survey evidence not prepared for the purpose of litigation?.?.?.?indicates that numerous features that were not tested - as battery life, MP3 player functionality, operating system, text messaging options, GPS and processor speed - are highly important to consumers,” Koh wrote.

It was the second time the judge ruled against Apple’s sales ban request. She rejected it first after the 2012 trial, in which the jury ruled that Samsung infringed several Apple patents. Last November, a U.S. Court of Appeals ordered Koh to reconsider it.

Apple still did not prove Samsung’s infringement caused irreparable harm, Koh said in the Thursday ruling.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling against an injunction and agree with its observation that a few software features alone don’t drive consumer demand for Samsung products - rather, consumers value a multitude of features,” said Samsung Electronics in a statement yesterday.

There was no immediate reaction from Apple.

The ruling could affect another looming patent trial between the world’s two largest smartphone makers. The case, which covers different patents involving Samsung’s newer mobile devices, originated in a suit filed by Apple in February 2012 and will have its opening session on March 31.

The two companies attempted to reach an agreement to avoid the opening of the second battle but reported to the U.S. court in February that they had failed. The Samsung Galaxy S3 is among the devices affected by the new trial.

The foiled sales ban request by Apple is tied to the first patent trial the California-based iPhone maker initiated with a suit in April 2011. Based on the 2012 jury verdict and another in 2013, the California court ruled last year that Samsung owed $929.7 million in damages to Apple for infringement of patents.

On Thursday, Koh approved the amount of penalty in a bid to put an end to the first trial.

Samsung, however, said it is planning to appeal regarding the sum of damages, saying it was “based on erroneous calculation methods for damage.”

“We plan to appeal and prove that we did not infringe the patents in question,” said Samsung. “For decades, we have heavily invested in pioneering the development of technological innovations in the mobile industry.”

Samsung said it filed an appeal.

The consuming legal battle will likely continue as the two companies are trying to battle it out to win a saturated smartphone market. Wei Chen, an analyst at Citigroup Global Markets, predicted in a report released on Thursday that global smartphone sales will grow 28 percent this year, down from 40 percent last year. Samsung plans to sell its latest phone, the Galaxy S5, beginning next month, while Apple is expected to roll out the iPhone 6 in the summer.

According to market research firm IDC, Samsung seized a 28.8 percent share of the global smartphone market in terms of shipment in the fourth quarter last year, down from 29.1 percent in the same quarter a year earlier. Apple had 17.9 percent.

BY MOON GWANG-LIP [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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