Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., No. 2012- 1507 (Oct. 11, 2012).
The Federal Circuit issued a highly anticipated decision that reversed a district court’s preliminary injunction against the Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The court first held that Apple had not demonstrated irreparable harm. According to the court, Apple was required to show not only that it will suffer irreparable harm but also that “a sufficiently strong causal nexus relates the alleged harm to the alleged infringement.” Slip op. 6. A minimal nexus is not enough: “The patentee must rather show that the infringing feature drives consumer demand for the accused product.” Id. at 8. Apple did not demonstrate that nexus.
The court held that the “causal nexus requirement is not satisfied simply because removing an allegedly infringing component would leave a particular feature, application, or device less valued or inoperable.” Id. at 10. Many ordinary features— such as batteries or even screws—have the same effect yet do not drive customer demand. Thus, Apple’s evidence of a nexus was insufficient at least because its own survey evidence showed that the allegedly infringing feature was not among the top five reasons that consumers purchase Android smartphones.
Although the lack of irreparable harm was sufficient to warrant reversal and remand, the Federal Circuit, in the interest of judicial economy, also considered a limited claim construction issue, reversing the district court’s construction and rejecting Apple’s alternative. That ruling may affect the question of infringement as this battle in the smartphone wars moves forward.