Apple's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, Court's Denial, and Federal Circuit Appellate Opinion: Reasonable Likelihood of Success

District Court’s Finding re Substantial Questions about D’087’s Validity

The district court found that Samsung had raised substantial questions about the invalidity of the D’087 patent. As a consequence, the court held that Apple did not prove it was likely to succeed at trial against Samsung’s validity challenge. Since Apple could not prove that it would be likely to succeed against a validity challenge for D’087, the court could not use alleged infringement of D’087 as the grounds for granting an injunction.
Samsung had presented the ‘638 patent as a prior art reference which anticipated the D’087 patent and made it invalid for being non-novel. The district court agreed. Presumably Samsung submitted visual side-by-side comparisons of both. The district court held that an ordinary observer would be likely to consider both patents to have substantially the same overall appearances. Though there were some differences between the two, such differences could be minor (and/or) obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art.
The court’s discussion of the D’087’s likely validity is very brief. It is difficult to tell exactly why the district court felt so convinced by Samsung’s argument. Again, presumably, Samsung’s visual comparisons must have been very convincing. Apple’s motion itself did not discuss the ‘638 prior art reference, but Apple must have contested Samsung’s argument in a later reply or declaration (most of which were sealed).
The Federal Circuit did object to the district court’s analysis of the D’087 validity. It said that the district court had erred in finding that the ‘638 patent was substantially similar (and thus anticipated the D’087 patent). The error of the district court was in improperly defining the scope of the patent. The lower court had been too restrictive in defining what views of the design were being claimed in the D’087 patent. This seems to indicate that the Federal Circuit is far more generous in defining scope of claims and what is being protected. However, despite its disagreement, the Federal Circuit affirmed denial of an injunction on D’087 grounds due to the fact that it affirmed the lower court’s finding of no irreparable harm (discussed in the next blog).
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