SAN JOSE, Calif (CN) – Another battle in Apple and Samsung’s seemingly ceaseless smartphone patent wars played out in front of a federal judge on Thursday, this one pertaining to Samsung’s redesigns following a jury verdict for Apple in 2014.
The patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, relates to the operation of quicklinks – a software program that allows users to prompt hyperlinks that can take them to a webpage, a different application platform or perform a function within an operating system.
“Each redesign consisted of only one or two minor changes,” Apple attorney Mark Selwyn told U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh during the prolonged hearing that featured several back-and-forths between the two lawyers.
Samsung attorney Kathleen Sullivan said the revisions were more than just minor revisions, but changed the fundamental coding sequence of how various applications operated.
Apple said the sequencing was miniscule, amounting to fractions of a second. Samsung’s attorney used the Olympics as an analogy, saying fractions of seconds are what discern gold medal winners from silver medal finalists.
“Sequencing is everything,” Sullivan said. “We relied on the court’s ruling when we addressed sequencing.”
But Selwyn said the sequencing and other minor changes to the code don’t change much in terms of the user experience, meaning Samsung continues to infringe upon Apple’s quicklinks patents and should pay royalties as a result.
During the hearing, it was revealed Samsung already pays Apple an undisclosed sum in royalties; the amount remains sealed as do most of the motions and declarations pertinent to the present dispute.
That may change as Koh ordered both sides to file motions to reseal the documents before she rules on the present dispute.
Koh also remonstrated Samsung lawyers for saying in 2014 that they had already changed their code and that any further court hearings on royalties would be a waste of time. She said this was false, as Samsung later agreed to pay royalties on some the products they previously said were so obviously different.
“It’s 3 1/2 years later and we are getting something different and there has been no effort to correct the record,” an obviously irritated Koh said.
The present dispute is a minor skirmish in the overall war that began in 2011. Apple began litigating a series of patent infringement disputes relating to software, including ‘647, and other software features such as universal search, background syncing and the slide-to-unlock function on its smartphones.
The quicklinks function was the centerpiece of a $120 million verdict for Apple, which survived a convoluted series of appeals, and en banc decisions. Samsung also prevailed on some counterclaims that Apple had infringed its software patents, so the victory was not clear cut.
Thursday’s fight involving software infringement is separate from jury verdict awarding Apple approximately $1 billion in damages after a finding Samsung had infringed five of six Apple patents.
The damages were eventually whittled to $400 million, and also disputed and re-litigated after a series of appeals and even intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the overall case, but said damages don’t have to be awarded for profits of an entire product if the product consists of many parts. The court then remanded the case to Koh, who must figure out whether to hew closely to the $400 million or come up with a new formula.
Koh said she will rule on the present issue regarding ongoing royalties for the ‘647 patent as soon as the motions to seal are sorted out.