Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Apple v. Samsung: Justice delayed is justice denied

February 17, 2013: 2:45 PM ET

Judge Koh wants a 2014 trial frozen until appeals from a 2011 complaint are exhausted

382825052574FORTUNE -- In July 2011, Motorola (GOOG) filed a complaint in Germany's Mann­heim District Court charging that Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox was infringing two of its video-coding patents. In May 2012 -- less than nine months later -- the court granted an injunction.

Contrast that with Judge Lucy Koh's federal court in the Northern District of California.

In April 2011, three months before Motorola, Apple (AAPL) filed a complaint charging that Samsung's smartphones and tablets were infringing Apple's patents, trademarks and designs. The case went to trial 16 months later, and a jury ruled in Apple's favor, famously assessing Samsung $1.05 billion in damages.

Nearly half a year has passed, and no injunction has been granted, no fines have been paid and the judge has yet to issue a final ruling on the damages.

While the legal procedures drag on, Samsung is free to continue selling devices that Steve Jobs claimed -- and the jury agreed -- were Apple rip offs.

But there's more.

Apple filed a second complaint last August asserting that 17 more Samsung products -- including the Galaxy S III, Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tablet 10.1 -- violated still more Apple patents. That trial isn't scheduled to begin until May 2014, one year and nine months after Apple's complaint.

Now Judge Koh wants to put that trial on hold. Bloomberg reports that she told the two parties last week that she would like to freeze the second case until appeals from the first are exhausted. "I don't know if we need two cases on this," she said.

Meanwhile, Samsung is selling Galaxy S IIIs by the millions.

FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller can hardly contain himself. He points out that patent litigation in the U.S. seems to work better for patent trolls than for actual innovators.

"The unwillingness of many U.S. courts to adjudicate patent infringement cases within reasonable periods of time is slowly but surely becoming a serious issue for the competitiveness of the innovative part of the U.S. economy," he says. "It also leads an increasing number of patent holders to rest their hopes for swift resolution of patent cases on certain German courts."

Like that speedy one in Mannheim, for example.

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About This Author
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 Fortune.com.

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