California - The Federal Circuit ruled on Thursday that a California federal judge abused her discretion in handing down an injunction barring Samsung Electronics Co. from selling its Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the U.S. in Apple Inc.'s epic iPhone and iPad infringement lawsuit.
Judge Lucy Koh issued the sales injunction in June, and the Federal Circuit previously granted Samsung's motion for a temporary stay of the injunction while it considered Samsung's appeal.
As the party seeking emergency relief, Apple is obligated to make a clear showing that it is at risk of irreparable harm, which entails showing a likelihood of substantial and immediate irreparable injury, according to the appeals court. A patent holder like Apple must also establish that the harm is sufficiently related to the infringement, it said.
Samsung argued on appeal that Judge Koh abused her discretion by finding that Apple will be irreparably harmed without the injunction and that Apple sufficiently established a nexus between the harm alleged and the infringing conduct.
Apple's evidence of a causal nexus, based primarily on the popularity of the iPhone 4S's Siri voice assistant and search feature, is limited, the Federal Circuit said. To the extent the district court endorsed Apple's articulation of the causal nexus test, it erred as a matter of law, it said.
To establish a sufficiently strong causal nexus, Apple had to show that consumers buy the Galaxy Nexus because it is equipped with the apparatus claimed in the patent -- not because it can search in general, and not even because it has a unified search feature, the Federal Circuit ruled.
"At best, the district court's findings indicate that some consumers who buy the iPhone 4S like Siri because, among other things, its search results are comprehensive," the court's opinion said. "That does not sufficiently suggest, however, that consumers would buy the Galaxy Nexus because of its improved comprehensiveness in search."
Apple's massive patent case against Samsung and Samsung's own counterclaims have drawn widespread public attention, in large part due to the $1 billion verdict a jury in the California court handed down in August against Samsung.