In April 2011, Apple first sued Samsung for infringement of several of it’s smartphone patents. These patents covered technologies that Apple believed was present in 26 of Samsung’s smart phone product offering. Apple alleged not only that this technology was not rightfully used, but also that it diluted the Apple brand and as such Apple needed remuneration. In this highly publicized decision, Apple won on all arguments and was deemed deserving of one billion in damages from Samsung’s activities. After the trial, Apple moved for an injunction on Samsung’s production and distribution of the 26 smartphones that were found to be in violation of Apple’s patents. This motion was denied and Samsung was allowed to continue production of its smartphones. Two years later Apple filed for an injunction in the US District Court of Appeals in Northern California, but was again denied. What are the legal dilemmas in patent law behind this decision that separate an injunction from illegal use of patented technology?
Three of the six disputed patents covered the design of the iPhone; the other three patents covered utility functions. In the design patents, vague language was used that could arguably apply to all smartphones currently on the market. Apple’s patents claim protection over, “a minimalist design for a rectangular smartphone consisting of a large rectangular display occupying most of the phone’s front face. The corners of the phone are rounded.” At first glance, even this wording seems vague and problematic, almost all smart phones today have this design. The utility patents covered the functions of “double-tap-to-zoom”, “multi-touch display” and “bounce back” in scrolling.