Remember that enormous lawsuit from this summer between Samsung and Apple? You know, the one where Apple won a billion-dollar settlement over patent infringements? Well, that case is going back to trial starting tomorrow (12/6).
One of the big questions through this whole ordeal has been, What will happen to current Samsung products if the company loses its appeal? Would Samsung be unable to sell products in the United States forevermore?
Good news. It’s not that bad.
Sure, no company wants to lose a billion dollars, but Samsung can handle it. They’ve been doing really, really well, so a billion dollars won’t even put a major dent in their budget. TechCrunch reported that “a billion dollars is less than 1 percent of Samsung’s annual revenue.”
What about the product import bans? All of the devices listed in the lawsuit are now over two years old. Would you even notice if phones that age were removed from the shelves of your local retailer? In fact, only 8 of the 24 listed devices are even still available on the market.
The next major concern is for all of Samsung’s current products. Will the Galaxy SIII be affected? No, not by this legal decision. There is another court battle involving the SIII, but nothing definitive has happened there yet. According to the way that these product bans occur, the bans can only apply to the products named and to devices that are only “colorably different”. In other words, if a company changed a device just a tiny bit in order to try to get around a court decision, then that product will get banned, too.
The Galaxy SIII, on the other hand, is quite different than the SII (a product included in the current court battle). The SIII is larger, has rounded corners, and it has an operating system that’s 4 versions newer than what the SII had. This all adds up to much more than a “colorably different” experience.
The Trouble with District Court Decisions
The confusion you might have felt regarding the specifics of this case is not a new problem. Lots of people are uncertain what all is included in court decisions largely because district courts make broader, more sweeping decisions than they are actually allowed in numerous cases. Even though import bans are only supposed to apply to the named devices, the decisions make it sound as if the restrictions will apply to any device that is even remotely similar.
A major company like Samsung or any of the other tech giants out there will quickly recognize something like that and simply move the case up to the Federal Circuit. At the federal level, the court will correct the language in the ban to make it more appropriate without so much as a simple reprimand to district courts for allowing overbroad injunctions.
How does this happen? For one, lawyers push for every conceivable detail in injunctions. Also, courts sometimes task patent owners to write the injunctions themselves! How crazy is that? It’s like catching a thief and then telling the person who was robbed to write out a list of everything the thief should pay in return.
There might just be a little room for abuse in that system.
Courts have to be stricter at the district level to catch these sorts of problems. Not everyone has the deep resources necessary to continue court battles to see justice properly served. Whether it requires a list of “model injunctions” like TechCrunch suggests or not, something needs to change in district courts.