(CN) - The Federal Circuit on Thursday overturned an order barring Samsung from selling its Galaxy Nexus smartphones in an ongoing patent battle with Apple.
The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that Apple failed to show how the alleged patent violations would "irreparably harm" its own iPhone sales.
The ruling hinges on a single patent, no. '604, which covers "unified search" technology. The patented system allows mobile devices to search local files and the web simultaneously, and retrieves search results before the user finishes typing the query.
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, Calif., issued a preliminary injunction on June 29 and refused Samsung's request to stay the injunction.
The Federal Circuit granted a temporary stay in July, and has now lifted the injunction in an 18-page opinion.
The court rejected Apple's claim that the Korean company's use of an allegedly infringing feature called "Quick Box Search" hurt its sales of the iPhone 4S. Those sales rely heavily on the popularity of Siri, the iPhone 4S's "intelligent personal assistant," Apple argued.
Though Siri depends in part on unified search technology, the appeals court rejected Koh's finding that the patented search feature "is core to the functionality of Siri," and thus "core to the functioning and sales of the iPhone."
Circuit Judge Sharon Prost noted that Apple's own survey evidence "shows that unified search is not one of the top five reasons consumers select Android smartphones."
"In this light, the causal link between the alleged infringement and consumer demand for the Galaxy Nexus is too tenuous to support a finding of irreparable harm," Prost wrote. "The district court cited three documents in support of its nexus finding, but they do not sufficiently show that the patented feature drives consumer demand."
Finding that Koh "abused [her] discretion" when she issued the preliminary injunction, the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded.
Thursday's ruling comes two weeks after the court dissolved a similar ban on sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. In that dispute, Koh enjoined domestic sales of the tablet in June, but a jury cleared the Galaxy Tab 10.1 of infringement claims in August. However, Samsung was still ordered to pay Apple $1 billion for violating other patents.
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