Apple vs. Samsung: Court's Finding on Validity of D'667 Patent - Part I

The D’677 patent discloses that the front face surface of the iPhone has a black screen and is transparent and glass like. Arguing invalidity, Samsung attacked the D’677 patent as being obvious in light of the prior art. At the center of this argument was one particular patent: Japanese Patent No. 1241638 (‘638 patent). Per Samsung’s argument, the ‘638 patent worked in combination with other prior art to make D’677 obvious.  Due to the length of this discussion, we have split this entry into three parts.

You might recall that a challenge on obviousness grounds requires that there be a primary reference. As a refresher, a primary reference is one prior art reference that has basically the same overall visual appearance as the D’677 patent.

The district court found that the ‘638 patent could act as a primary reference in the obviousness inquiry. Though the ‘638 patent did not disclose, “A black transparent and glass-like front surface,” it nonetheless “created basically the same visual impression” as the D’677 patent did (Court Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction, 21-2). The court was unclear in explaining its rationale for finding the ‘638 patent to be a primary reference. It’s logic seemed to be: the D’087 and D’677 patent both had similar overall visual impressions and that the ‘638 patent worked as a primary reference for the D’087 patent. Because of the substantial similarities between D’087 and D’677, it was assumed that a reference that worked as a primary reference for D’087 should also work as a primary reference for D’087. 

For example, the court stated, “Given the similarities between the D’677 and D’087 patents, and the substantial similarities between the ‘638 patent and the D’087 patent, it is appropriate for the ‘638 patent to serve as a primary reference for the D’677 patent” (Court Order Denying Motion for Preliminary Injunction, 22).

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