Apple has just mopped the floor with Samsung in an epic patent trial in which a jury issued a $1.05 billion verdict. Now, the fun really begins. In the next phase, Apple can ask the judge to triple the prize. Here’s a plain English guide to what happens next:
Why does Samsung owe $1 billion in the first place?
After a month long trial in San Jose, a jury found Friday that Samsung’s phones and tablets infringed on various Apple patents related to the iPhone and iPad. The jury said the various infringements added up to $1.05 billion.
So what is this about tripling damages?
If a jury finds that someone willfully infringed on a patent, the Patent Act says “the court may increase the damages up to three times the amount found or assessed.” (emphasis ours) Guess what? The jury found that Samsung’s actions were willful. This means that Apple can now go to Judge Lucy Koh and ask her to triple the figure. But that doesn’t mean she has to do it.
Can Judge Koh do anything for Samsung?
Yes, the judge has the power to lower the damages if she finds that no “rational jury” could have awarded such an amount. This has occurred in previous tech cases. Koh can also overrule the jury’s findings that Apple’s patents are valid in the first place.
But what about the products that Samsung is still selling? Can Apple put a stop to that?
This is where it gets interesting. Since some of Samsung’s products are still on the market, Apple is coming back to court next month to ask Judge Koh to issue an injunction to ban them. But this appears unlikely due to a 2008 Supreme Court decision that made injunctions far less common.
Apple, however, can also ask for ongoing damages since Samsung is still selling the offending products.
This will end up on appeal, right?
Yes, almost certainly. But not right away. First Samsung will take a crack at knocking down some of the jury’s findings before Judge Koh. They will ask for a “judgment not withstanding verdict” — asking Koh to substitute her conclusion for that of the jury. But again, she will only do so if she believes a “rational jury” couldn’t have made such decisions in the first place.
Could this happen? According to Professor Sarah Burstein, a patent authority at the University of Oklahoma, Judge Koh is unlikely to disturb the jury’s finding. Burstein predicts that Samsung will try to raise “lots of nit-picking stuff about the evidence,” but that Koh won’t bite.
Once Koh replies to requests for a “judgment not withstanding verdict,” then the final verdict will be entered and the parties can appeal to the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC.
Anything else I should know?
The most important thing to take away is that this is far from settled. According to Burstein, the Federal Circuit has been very active in reviewing district courts, especially when it comes to damages.
“Whatever happens in the coming days, for now you have to just pencil in the damages,” she said.