Analysis: Apple bid for Samsung sales ban faces skeptical court

Mon Jan 7, 2013 3:34pm EST
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc faces long odds in its attempt to overturn a U.S. appeals court ruling that threatens to undermine its smartphone patent war against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Apple has asked the full Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit an October decision by a three-judge panel of the court, which rejected its request to impose a sales ban on Samsung's Galaxy Nexus smartphone ahead of a trial set for March 2014.

In that ruling, the Washington D.C.-based appeals court raised the bar for potentially market crippling injunctions on product sales based on narrow patents for phone features. The legal precedent puts Samsung in a much stronger position by allowing its products to remain on store shelves while it fights a global patent battle against Apple over smartphone technology.

Apple hopes the full Federal Circuit, made up of nine active judges, will reverse the panel's findings. But legal experts say the specific legal issues involved are not likely to be controversial enough to spur full court review.

Furthermore, the three judges who issued the ruling were unanimous, whereas the Federal Circuit tends to review a case "en banc" - with all of the active judges - when an earlier ruling showed a split.

The Federal Circuit fight comes after Apple won a $1.05 billion verdict last year against Samsung in a California federal court. The same trial judge will preside over the legal battle surrounding the Nexus phone, which involves a patent not included in the earlier trial.

The fight has been widely viewed as a proxy war between Apple and Google Inc. Samsung's hot-selling Galaxy smartphones and tablets run on Google's Android operating system, which Apple's late co-founder, Steve Jobs, once denounced as a "stolen product."

Google has not had much luck in obtaining injunctions against Apple, either. In a deal with federal antitrust regulators announced last week, the Android developer agreed to limit when it can use certain swaths of its patent portfolio to seek injunctions.   Continued...

Customers gather outside an Apple store before the release of iPhone 5 in Munich early September 21, 2012. Apple Inc's iPhone 5 hit stores around the globe on Friday, with fans snapping up the device that is expected to fuel a huge holiday quarter for the consumer giant. REUTERS/Michael Dalder