The ongoing patent infringement saga between Samsung and Apple has just taken a new turn. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California, presided over by Judge Lucy Koh, on Monday, asked Samsung Electronics to stop selling a number of its Android smartphones in the US market. The phones were previously declared to have been in violation of some patents held by Apple Inc. The interesting thing to note is that the case has been going on for years now, and the long list of banned Samsung smartphones includes devices that have largely gone out of production and are not available for purchase in the country anymore. The list includes devices like the Galaxy Nexus, the Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy S2, the Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, Galaxy S2 Epic 4G Touch, the Stratosphere and the Samsung Galaxy S3.
That last mentioned happens to be the most recently-launched device in the lineup, and even that was launched as far back as 2012. Trouble started for Samsung back in May, 2014, when the company was adjudged to have been in violation of a few UI-related patents held by Apple, which include the now-ubiquitous Quick Links, Slide-to-Unlock and AutoCorrect features. Apple was awarded a $119.6 million settlement by a jury as a result of the verdict, but the Cupertino, California-based company filed a motion for injunction against the errant smartphones, something that was summarily rejected by Judge Koh. Last September, however, Apple’s stance was vindicated by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which ruled that the company’s motion for injunction should, indeed, have been granted till such time as the Seoul, South Korea-based tech company removed the infringing features from its devices.
While in theory the latest ruling doesn’t affect Samsung (or the Android ecosystem for that matter) much, some legal eagles and industry watchers are of the opinion that it can a have far-reaching impact in the long term, as it will make things easier for patent trolls and holders of minor UI patents granted by the USPTO, to obtain injunctions against otherwise-legitimate electronics devices, thereby stifling competition. With that very apprehension, a number of entities, including major tech companies like eBay, Facebook, Google and Hewlett-Packard, got together with nonprofit organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, and legal experts from Stanford and Georgetown universities, to file an appeal to the US Supreme Court, asking it to reform the country’s archaic patent laws in the context of the 21st century.