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Apple Loses Bid to Corral Galaxy S4 Into Patent Suit

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Jun 28, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Apple's attempt to include Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, in a patent lawsuit filed in California was rebuffed Wednesday by a federal court judge.

Apple Loses Bid to Corral Galaxy S4 Into Patent Suit

Despite admonitions by Apple's attorneys that failure to include the S4 in a patent lawsuit scheduled to reach trial next year would result in more litigation, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal rejected the proposal to rope it in.

Adding the S4 to Apple's case would unduly prejudice Samsung's position in the lawsuit, the judge explained in his ruling.

Because the S4 was so new to the market, he added, it wouldn't be reasonable to expect Samsung to meet Apple's information demands before hearings in the case were expected to begin.

Grewal also delivered some admonitions of his own. "Each time these parties appear in the courtroom, they consume considerable amounts of the court's time and energy, which takes time away from other parties who also require and are entitled to the court's attention," he observed.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Judicial chiding aside, Apple and Samsung aren't likely to settle their differences outside the courthouse, noted patent analyst Florian Mueller.

"The Northern District of California has done a great job keeping its schedules despite the complexity of these high-profile cases," Mueller told MacNewsWorld, "but urging the parties to settle is futile unless there are some really sharp rulings that give a party serious leverage."

Inclusion of the S4 in the pending lawsuit would have enabled Apple to make larger damage claims when the litigation goes to trial in March 2014, Mueller noted. However, its exclusion from the present case doesn't preclude Apple from filing more litigation targeting the S4 and any other new products introduced by Samsung.

"Apple hasn't lost its entitlement to anything as a result of yesterday's decision," Mueller said. "This merely causes delay."

While it's likely there will be a lawsuit over the S4, he continued, Apple will probably wait to file it because it could delay the ongoing litigation -- which is the second suit filed by Apple against Samsung in the United States.

"Apple won't take any risk concerning the schedule in the second California case," Mueller said. "It will bring a third case at a later stage."

Boundaries Needed

Had the court not taken this action, it could have opened the door to expanding the lawsuit's scope indefinitely.

"Samsung and everybody else is always introducing new products. There's no end to this," Michael Lasky, a patent attorney with Burr & Forman, told MacNewsWorld.

"What happens if six months from trial, Samsung introduces the S5? Is Apple going to try to bring that into this lawsuit, too?" he asked.

"The court is entitled to say it's too late," he added. "It can say there's a cutoff to when you can add things, and you've long passed it."

As for what appeared to be Judge Grewal's irritation at the behavior of the parties in the case, it would be a mistake to read too much into that, according to Lasky.

"What the judge might be saying is these guys are taking a lot of time, and when you take time, other lawsuits get delayed," he said.

"It isn't a point of irritation," Lasky contended. "Nothing is being said here other than there's probably no end to the number of new products that'll be introduced during the course of this trial, and we're not going to restart the trial every time a new product appears."

Lawsuits Galore

Last year, Apple won a highly publicized lawsuit in which a jury found that Samsung violated six mobile-device patents held by Apple and awarded it US$1.05 billion in damages. That amount has since been reduced by the trial judge to $639.4 million.

Earlier this week, Japan's Intellectual High Court upheld a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit Apple brought against Samsung that had claimed infringement of a patent for media synchronization on mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Apple and Samsung have been engaging in talks to settle an antitrust lawsuit in Europe, Reuters reported Wednesday. The talks began in December, when the European Commission told Samsung it had stepped out of line in attempting to secure injunctions against Apple.

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