Judge rules that Samsung did not ‘willfully’ infringe on Apple’s patents

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Last August, a California jury found Samsung guilty of infringing on several Apple patents in a high-profile trial. The initial damages awarded to Apple totaled $1.05 billion, but since Samsung was found to have ‘willfully’ infringed, that amount was expected to multiply.

Not so fast. The two companies have been attending post-trial hearings with Judge Lucy Koh over the past few months to plead their cases for appeals and other motions. And tonight, Judge Koh has issued a ruling overturning the jury’s willful infringement finding…

Koh writes that establishing willful patent infringement takes a two-prong analysis: an objective inquiry and a subjective inquiry. The subjective inquiry is for the jury, which in this case found Samsung guilty, and the objective inquiry is for the court, which did not.

The Verge’s Bryan Bishop does a nice job of explaining it:

“As Koh writes in the ruling, for an ultimate finding of willfulness to hold Apple needed to prove that there was an “objectively high likelihood that its [Samsung’s] actions constituted infringement of a valid patent.” Samsung had argued that it had reason to believe Apple’s patents were invalid — so that even if Samsung had infringed, it couldn’t be found to have done so willfully. Koh found Samsung’s arguments reasonable enough to rule out an overall finding of willful infringement. In other words, she believed Samsung went into the whole situation with a reasonable belief that it wasn’t in the wrong.”

So what does all of this mean for Apple? Well, obviously the big thing is that it won’t be receiving any additional damages for willful infringement. And although the current $1.05 billion verdict stands, Koh could theoretically reduce the amount in light of this ruling.

In addition to the aforementioned overturn, the Judge also issued a few other rulings tonight in regards to the case. She denied Apple’s request for enhanced trade dress damages, as well as claims from Samsung that some of Apple’s patents were invalid.

Koh still has several post-trial motions to rule on, but it’s nice to see that they’re making progress. Hey, the sooner this thing wraps up, the sooner the two companies can get started on next year’s big trial. The case is scheduled to hit the courtrooms in March of 2014.

As far as this non-willful infringement verdict, I’m still not convinced. I’m in the camp that believes that Samsung knew exactly what it was doing when it ‘took inspiration’ from Apple’s devices, and that it’s at least part of the reason why it’s so successful today.

What do you think?