SAN JOSE, Calif. (CN) - Apple lost its final bid to ban older Samsung smartphones and tablets after a federal judge found that patented features like "double-tap to zoom" don't necessarily drive consumer demand.
Apple and Samsung have been locked in a bitter worldwide patent dispute since 2011 when Apple claimed that the South Korean company "slavishly copied" the iPhone and iPad to produce the Galaxy line of mobile phones and tablets. Cupertino-based Apple filed a second suit the next year, accusing Samsung of flooding the market with more copycat products likely to confuse consumers.
The first trial ended with a jury awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages, but U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh quickly halved that figure after faulting jurors for not following her instructions. A new jury handed Apple another $290 million this past November in a retrial on damages from the first go-round.
Apple asked the court after the trial to permanently enjoin Samsung from selling 23 of its "copycat" smartphones and tablets, but Koh denied the motion. A three-judge panel with the Federal Circuit affirmed only in part, and advised Koh to take another look at whether Apple's experts proved that consumers would pay more for the company's utility patents, including the "bounce-back" and "pinch-to-zoom" features.
In a ruling issued early Thursday, Koh stood her ground and found that Apple's experts measured consumer interest for the features "in a vacuum" without accounting for competition from other manufacturers.
"In the end, the court is left with Apple's request to prohibit Samsung from selling 23 of its products, and any products not more than colorably different, in the United States based on Samsung's infringement of three Apple utility patents," Koh wrote. "To persuade the court to grant Apple such an extraordinary injunction - to bar such complex devices for incorporating three touchscreen software features - Apple bears the burden to prove that these three touchscreen software features drive consumer demand for Samsung's products. Apple has not met this burden. Accordingly, the court continues to heed Justice Kennedy's observation in eBay v. MercExchange that 'when the patented invention is but a small component of the product the companies seek to produce, legal damages may well be sufficient to compensate for the infringement.'"
Koh's decision is largely symbolic, since most of the products are obsolete and no longer in stores. But it sets the stage for what the public can expect in a second Apple-Samsung showdown slated to begin March 31, which involves newer products including Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad Mini and Samsung's Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Tab 2.
In a separate filing Thursday, Koh closed the case file on what's become known as Apple I, entering a judgment against Samsung and awarding Apple $929,780,039.
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