Digest of Apple Inc., v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd,. No. 14-1802 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 16, 2015) (precedential) On appeal from N.D. Cal. Before Prost, Moore and Reyna.

Procedural Posture: Apple requested a permanent injunction against Samsung regarding the implementation of infringing features in Samsung’s smartphones and tablets. District court denied for lack of irreparable harm. CAFC vacated and remanded for further proceedings.

  • Permanent Injunction: The district court did not err by requiring Apple to satisfy the causal nexus requirement to show evidence of irreparable harm; Apple’s argument that the narrowness of the requested injunction eliminates the nexus requirement is rejected. However, the district court’s finding that Apple could not show that the infringing features drive consumer demand for the Samsung products was incorrect. Although Apple did not establish that the infringing features were the exclusive driver of customer demand, Apple was able to show “some connection” between the patented features and the demand for Samsung’s products, i.e., that the infringing features influence consumers’ perceptions of and desire for Samsung’s products. As a result, the district court should have found irreparable harm.

Furthermore, the factor of whether remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for the irreparable harm weighed strongly in favor of Apple because the extent of Apple’s downstream and network effect losses are very difficult to quantify. Moreover, the balance of hardship tipped in Apple’s favor because the injunction was narrowly tailored, Apple would otherwise be forced to compete against its own innovation, usurped by its largest and fiercest competitor, and Samsung could easily deliver non-infringing alternatives to the market. Finally, given the important public interest in protecting patent rights, the nature of the technology at issue, and the limited nature of the injunction, the public interest favor strongly favored an injunction.

  • Concurring Opinion (Reyna): In addition to the majority opinion, Apple satisfied the irreparable injury factor based on Samsung’s infringement on Apple’s right to exclude and based on the injury that the infringement causes Apple’s reputation as an innovator.
  • Dissenting opinion (Prost): The majority relies on evidence that is not in the record; the infringing features are minor; and the majority incorrectly concludes that evidence of copying is sufficient to show a nexus to Apple’s alleged lost sales