Apple's quest to aggressively use patents to stamp out competition rose to new heights on Tuesday after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California backed Apple's request to ban the sale of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets here in the States.
Previously Judge Koh denied Apple's bid for an injunction on the tablet and multiple Galaxy smartphones. But now she has changed her mind thanks federal appeals court which instructed Koh to reconsider Apple's request on the Android-based tablet.
"Although Samsung has a right to compete, it does not have a right to compete unfairly, by flooding the market with infringing products," Koh wrote on Tuesday.
The order is expected to become effective once Apple posts a $2.6 million bond (chump change). This will be used to protect Apple against Samsung should the injunction be found incorrect later on. Meanwhile, Samsung will likely seek to appeal Koh's ruling to a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, which has exclusive jurisdiction over intellectual property (IP) disputes.
"Apple sought a preliminary injunction of Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1, based on a single design patent that addressed just one aspect of the product's overall design," Samsung said in a statement. "Should Apple continue to make legal claims based on such a generic design patent, design innovation and progress in the industry could be restricted."
Samsung said there won't be a huge impact in revenue, as the affected tablet was released back in 2011 and the company just revealed its successor, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1), last month. That said, the ruling doesn't apply to the new model, and Samsung is now telling retailers that they can clear the older model out of their inventory.
An Apple spokesperson said the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 "blatantly copies" the iPad design, calling it outright "wrong."
Colleen Chien, a professor at Santa Clara Law in Silicon Valley, told Reuters that the relief being given to Apple regarding Samsung's tablet is "extraordinary," as preliminary injunctions are rarely asked for and rarely granted.
"That this was a design patent and copying was alleged distinguish this case from plain vanilla utility patent cases," she said. "Cases involving these kinds of patents are based more on a counterfeiting theory than a competition theory, so I don't expect this case to have ramifications for all smartphone disputes, but rather those involving design patents and the kind of product resemblance we had here."
Apple has waged its patent war against the Android community and across the globe since 2010. The small accomplishment here in one of many U.S.-based cases could strengthen Apple grip on Android-based manufacturers, forcing them into cross-licensing deals... if there's anything left after Microsoft demands its Android-based licensing fees, that is.