Apple 2.0

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Judge denies Apple request to ban sale of Samsung devices

December 18, 2012: 6:58 AM ET

"Causal nexus" is key. Meanwhile, Samsung's jury misconduct claim is a nonstarter


Judge Koh overseeing the trial last August. Sketch via Reuters

FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) lost an important ruling Monday night when a U.S. federal judge denied its request for a permanent ban on a collection of Samsung products that Apple charged -- and a jury ruled -- had willfully infringed Apple's patents.

Samsung, for its part, lost what most court watchers believed was a long-shot bid for a retrial based on what it claimed was evidence of jury misconduct on the part of the foreman.

The two rulings were the first in a series expected from Judge Lucy Koh on post-trial issues stemming from last August's closely-watched Apple v. Samsung case.

Koh has yet to rule on whether the $1.05 billion the jury ordered Samsung to pay will be increased by more than $500 million, as Apple requested, or reduced considerably, as Samsung hopes.

But for companies as rich as these two, the money is the least of it.

The judge's decision not to ban the infringing products takes much of the sting out of Samsung's sweeping loss last summer. Her ruling turned on what has come to be known as the "causal nexus" question. It's not enough for Apple to prove that Samsung infringed its patents, according to Koh. To show that it suffered "irreparable harm" Apple must also prove that those specific infringements caused consumers to choose, say, a Samsung Galaxy S II over an iPhone 4.

Apple is expected to appeal. It argues that the causal nexus hurdle sets the bar too high for any patent holder to win an import ban in the U.S.

On the jury misconduct issue, Judge Koh didn't even bother to order evidentiary hearings. It's not clear whether Samsung intends to pursue that claim any further.

Meanwhile, Samsung announced Tuesday that it will drop all its suits against Apple in Europe based on so-called standard essential patents. Samsung had tried to ban the sale of Apple products in several European countries -- a move that triggered a European Union antitrust investigation into whether Samsung was violating its pledge to license its patents on "fair and reasonable" terms.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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