Apple-Samsung patent dispute: Court denies bids to ban products, retry case
By John Ribeiro
A court in California has denied Samsung Electronics a retrial in a patent dispute with Apple, and also refused Apple a ban on the sale of some Samsung products.
A jury decided in August that the South Korean company must pay Apple $1.05 billion for infringing several of its patents in Samsung smartphones and tablets.
But Samsung asked for a new trial of the case, alleging that the foreman of the jury, Velvin Hogan, was untruthful and biased in the voir dire, a court procedure of questioning prospective jurors for potential bias.
Hogan did not mention that he had been sued by his former employer, Seagate, for breach of contract after he failed to repay a promissory note in 1993 and filed for bankruptcy six months later, according to a filing by Samsung. The company said it has a “substantial strategic relationship with Seagate,” and is the single largest direct shareholder of the hard drive manufacturer after selling it a business division last year.
Although Hogan had mentioned in the voir dire that he was employed by Seagate, counsel for Samsung did not ask him about his relationship with Seagate, and whether that relationship might influence his view in any way, Judge Lucy H. Koh of the District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division, wrote in her order on Monday.
“If Samsung believes that its relationship with Seagate is close enough that feelings toward Seagate could bias a juror one way or the other toward Samsung, counsel should have pursued the subject during voir dire,” she wrote.
Though Samsung learned of the bankruptcy through its own research on July 30, the day of voir dire, Samsung did not request the bankruptcy file, which mentions Hogan’s litigation with Seagate, until Sept. 4, five days after the verdict in Apple’s favor, Judge Koh wrote. Samsung received the bankruptcy file on Sept. 10, and discovered the lawsuit, and also learned two days later that the lawyer who filed the Seagate lawsuit against Hogan is the husband of a partner in the law firm of Quinn Emanuel, Samsung’s counsel. The partner was not a part of the trial team, nor has she worked on any part of the litigation between Apple and Samsung, the judge wrote.
Samsung said it had no reason to investigate until after the verdict, when Hogan made “public statements after the verdicts that so clearly favored Apple that the press speculated about their possible financial ties.”
The statements cited by Samsung neither show that Hogan favored Apple nor show that he was being deceitful in voir dire, Judge Koh said. There was also nothing in the post-verdict statements cited by Samsung that referred to Seagate, bankruptcy, lawsuits, or any other information Hogan allegedly concealed. “Thus, Mr. Hogan’s comments cannot serve to trigger Samsung’s investigation obligations,” Judge Koh wrote.
As Samsung failed to exercise reasonable diligence during the voir dire and until the verdict was reached, Samsung’s argument pertaining to Hogan’s dishonesty is waived, Judge Koh ordered.
Neither party has conclusively shown whether Hogan intentionally concealed his lawsuit with Seagate, or whether he merely forgot to mention it when asked by the court whether he was ever involved in a lawsuit, or whether he believed that the answer he gave had sufficiently responded to the court’s question, Judge Koh said. “Further, it is not even clear that Mr. Hogan knew of any relationship between Seagate and Samsung,” she added. The judge ruled that Samsung had waived its right to object to Hogan’s answer even if it was dishonest
The judge also refused Apple’s motion for a permanent injunction on some Samsung products that infringed its patents. The fact that Apple may have lost customers and downstream sales to Samsung is not enough to justify an injunction. Apple has not shown that it lost the sales because Samsung infringed its patents, Judge Koh wrote in a separate ruling.
The court had asked Apple to producea copy of its recent patent agreement with HTC, after Samsung said it was relevant to the case. Apple’s willingness to license patents in the suit may undermine its claim of irreparable harm and demonstrate that monetary remedies are adequate, Samsung said in a filing.
The judge appeared to accept the argument, pointing to Apple’s licensing deals for utility patents in the suit with IBM, HTC, and Nokia. “The fact that Apple is now expressing an unwillingness to license these properties does not change the fact that Apple has, in the past, felt that money was a fair trade for the right to practice its patents, and that Apple has in the past been willing to extend license offers to Samsung,” Judge Koh wrote in her order.
John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John’s e-mail address is email@example.com