District Court's Finding Regarding Infringement of Apple's D'677 Patent

 The District Court agreed with Apple, finding that Samsung’s accused Infuse 4G and Galaxy S 4G phones would likely infringe Apple’s D’677 patent. The court looked at the side-by-side, pictorial comparisons in reaching this finding. According to the court, Samsung’s accused cell phones “would likely appear substantially the same [as the D’677 patent] to the ordinary observer” (Court Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 26).

Substantial similarities that contributed to overall similarity of appearance between the Galaxy S 4G and D’677 included: Galaxy S 4G’s “similar shape, size and glass-like black front face as the D’677 patent”; the location of the speaker on the Samsung Galaxy S 4G was in almost the same place as the speaker on the D’677 patent; the screens on the Galaxy S 4G and D’677 were similarly sized. Substantial similarities between the Infuse 4G included: the Infuse 4G’s similar “large, flat, transparent black front screen, a slot-shaped speaker and a streamlined, simplistic design”.

On the whole, these similarities gave the Samsung accused cell phones the same overall appearance as the D’677 patent. Because of these findings, the court held that Apple would be likely to succeed at proving infringement at trial.

However, while this is the case, the court did disagree on the significance of the differences between Samsung’s accused cell phones and Apple’s D’677. Some of the identified differences between the Galaxy S4G and D’677 included: Samsung’s camera lens at the top of its Galaxy S 4G’s front faces; Samsung’s logo, as well as the service carrier’s logo on the front face of the Galaxy S 4G and four buttons at the bottom of Samsung’s Galaxy S 4G phones. Some of the identified differences between the Infuse 4G and D’677 included: the larger and broader size of the Infuse 4G; writing on Infuse 4G (no writing on D’677) and the buttons on Infuse 4G (not present in D’677).

Though the court defined these as minor differences, they also assumed greater significance for two reasons. The first was the general simplicity and minimalism of the design of both Apple’s D’677 and Samsung’s cell phones. The second was that the iPhone (embodiment of D’677) and Samsung’s cell phones were all expensive products, and consumers were likely to note and consider the differences while making their purchasing decisions. Additionally, the court also disagreed with Apple’s argument that its D’677 patent was conspicuously different from the prior art. Citing to another case, the court noted, “‘if the claimed design is close to the prior art designs, small differences between the accused design and the claimed design assume more importance”.Then, the court went on to state that the prior art for the D’677 patent “may make minor differences… take on greater significance”.

Nevertheless, the existence of these differences was not enough to detract from the overall substantial similarities in appearance between Samsung’s accused cell phones and the D’677 patent. The Federal Circuit did not address the issue of likely infringement of D’677 in its appellate opinion. This indicates that it did not disagree with the district court’s finding.

The next business litigation blog post will discuss Apple’s argument about the likely validity of the D’677 patent. 

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