Here we go back to square one. A federal judge has ordered a new trial in one of the most critical patent cases of the smartphone era — one in which Apple originally won a sweeping victory against rival Samsung.
Over the weekend, Judge Lucy Koh issued a ruling that a new trial was needed, 10 months after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that tossed out the original verdict from 2012. The ruling was spotted by Foss Patents, a tech patent blog. Koh asked the companies to propose a timeline for a new trial.
The ruling is the latest blow to Apple in a case that threatens to erase the last bits of what was a decisive legal and public relations triumph back in 2012. Though it seems like another era now, Apple had launched the litigation claiming that Samsung — in its use of features in Android and the hardware of its phones — had blatantly ripped off the iPhone.
It was one of the last gestures of CEO Steve Jobs, who felt betrayed by former partner Google, creator of Android. He was determined to prove in court that Apple was responsible for the game-changing designs that launched the smartphone era.
A federal jury seemed to agree in 2012, awarding Apple more than $1 billion and finding that Samsung had violated several patents. But Samsung has chipped away at the verdict little by little, getting some parts thrown out on technicalities and other parts reduced as judges refined the ruling.
Still, it seemed Samsung’s odds of getting the whole verdict thrown out are slim. While appeals were still pending, Samsung actually paid $548 million to Apple in December 2015 because its chances looked so poor. But then in December 2016 the Supreme Court ruled that the instructions to the jury in the original trial were too broad, that rather than calculating damages based on the price of entire phones sold, damages should only be limited to components or parts of the design that violated patents.
At stake now is about $400 million of the $548 million Samsung already paid. After the Supreme Court ruling, Apple had argued that Koh could confirm enough of the original ruling to avoid a new trial and keep the $400 intact. But Koh decided instead that the best route is a whole new trial.
“The Court finds that the jury instructions given at trial did not accurately reflect the law and that the instructions prejudiced Samsung by precluding the jury from considering whether the relevant article of manufacture… was something other than the entire phone,” Koh wrote.