On February 26 2015 the Federal Circuit overturned a $120 million patent infringement verdict won by Apple in its smartphone war with Samsung. The court ruled that two of Apple's patents were invalid and found that Samsung had not infringed a third patent. To rub salt in the wound, the court affirmed a $158,400 award against Apple based on infringement of one of Samsung's patents.

Apple and Samsung have engaged in a long battle in multiple lawsuits over smartphones. Apple has largely been successful and recently received $548 million from Samsung in a separate case. However, this most recent decision reverses the trend.

The jury verdict was handed down in May 2014 after a 13-day trial. The jury found that Samsung had infringed three Apple patents:

  • $8,074,172 for its slide-to-unlock feature;
  • $8,046,721 for its autocorrect feature; and
  • $5,946,647 for its 'quick links' technology. 

The jury awarded $120 million, $99 million of which was based on the latter patent.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit panel held that the slide-to-unlock and autocorrect patents were obvious in light of the prior art. With regard to the quick links patent, the court said that Apple had failed to prove infringement and overturned the jury verdict. Two other Apple patents had been asserted in the case, but the jury had found that those patents had not been infringed. The Federal Circuit agreed.

Conversely, the Federal Circuit affirmed the jury's relatively modest damage award to Samsung for Apple's infringement of a Samsung patent covering the compression of digital photos and videos.

While Apple can appeal to the Supreme Court, there are no new issues of law that would make the Supreme Court likely to grant certiorari. As a result, only a handful of patent infringement matters remain in the United States, and in 2014 both companies agreed to drop all smartphone patent litigation outside the United States. While the smartphone wars are by no means over, the end may be in sight.

W Edward Ramage

This article first appeared in IAM. For further information please visit www.iam-media.com.