It’s the goliath vs goliath court battle which has kept technology insiders and consumers hooked during 2012.
And now, with the year drawing to a close, Samsung looks to have scored the final victory this annum.
Apple followed up its landmark victory in California this summer with a demand that Samsung be banned from selling 26 of its gizmos in the US.
But, even though a jury verdict in August did find Samsung had infringed six of Apple’s patents, a federal court judge has now decided it would not be in the public interest to go ahead with any sales ban.
“Samsung may have cut into Apple’s customer base somewhat, but there is no suggestion that Samsung will wipe out Apple’s customer base, or force Apple out of the business of making smartphones,” said District Judge Lucy Koh, adding: “The present case involves lost sales – not a lost ability to be a viable market participant.”
In making her ruling, Koh looked at whether Apple had been harmed by the infringements and examined whether it was likely consumers had bought Samsung devices for the specific reason that they had features which had been patented by Apple.
She said: “Though evidence that Samsung attempted to copy certain Apple features may offer some limited support for Apple’s theory, it does not establish that those features actually drove consumer demand.”
Of 26 products Apple was seeking to block, only three are still on the market, according to the Korean giant – the Galaxy S II through T-Mobile, the Galaxy S II Epic and the Galaxy S II Skyrocket.
Koh said she could not justify denying consumers Samsung products. “The potential for future disruption to consumers would be significantly greater if this court were to issue an injunction,” she explained, “and such disruption cannot be justified.”
But it wasn’t all good news for Samsung. The Galaxy maker had been claiming it should be allowed a retrial because the original case took place in a courthouse close to Apple headquarters and because jury foreman Velvin Hogan had been sued by his previous employers Seagate Technology, which Samsung invests heavily in.
In her second order, however, Koh denied the motion for a new trial. She is still considering a further plea by Samsung for the $1.05 billion damages award it was ordered to pay Apple to be reduced.
So far, Apple has declined to comment on the latest ruling while Samsung said in a statement that it would be fully reviewing the court’s orders before deciding whether to take “further measures”.
And it’s certainly not all over by any means. The companies latest smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Apple iPhone 5 have been added to a related lawsuit in which both firms are accusing the other of copying products. That case will also come before Koh, but is not scheduled for trial until 2014.
The companies are also engaged in other court battles across the world and further appeals in this, and other, cases are expected. It’s perhaps no wonder each is desperate to protect its share of a market which Bloomberg Industries has estimated is worth a staggering $219 billion.