Samsung Electronics Co. is about to find out just how costly its four-year patent fight with Apple Inc. has been.
Each side spent hundreds of millions of dollars in legal bills to answer these fundamental questions: What’s the value of a single feature in a smartphone or tablet? And is it worth more if the inventor has a reputation for being cool?
That’s the crux of arguments to be made Wednesday when the top U.S. patent court in Washington hears an appeal in one of two remaining cases in the “smartphone war” between companies that at one point spanned four continents.
Apple wants Samsung to remove features from its mobile phones that copy its inventions, such as slide-to-unlock, which the iPhone maker patented as a way to unlock a touchscreen device. Samsung says it’s too onerous to change its phones for only minor contributions. The result will probably determine how much Samsung must pay.
The case has broader implications for how patents for individual features are valued in complex devices. The case has split the technology community. Companies often targeted in patent claims such as Google Inc., HTC Corp., LG Electronics Inc., Rackspace Hosting Inc., Red Hat Inc. and SAP SE are siding with Samsung. Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj, companies that rely on patent licensing for revenue, are backing Apple.
The two smartphone giants filed dozens of lawsuits against each other across four continents with little to show for it before deciding last year to drop everything except two cases originally lodged in Northern California.
A $930 million judgment won by Cupertino, California-based Apple over Samsung’s use of its unique designs was argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in December. In the second case, a jury awarded Apple $120 million. The damage award and underlying infringement finding will be argued later.
The arguments Wednesday will focus on whether a judge should have issued an order, called an injunction, for Samsung to remove some unique Apple features that the second jury said were copied. They are Apple’s slide-to-unlock and autocorrect techniques, and a feature that detects if a phone or address is in an e-mail and gives the user the option of making a call, finding directions or adding it to the contacts list.
Samsung argued -- and the trial judge agreed -- that the individual features weren’t driving sales of the iPhone, so Apple could be easily compensated with cash.
Apple said linking the injunction request to consumer demand doesn’t apply because it wasn’t trying to halt all sales of Samsung phones, just the use of specific features.
The case is Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Inc., 14-1802, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower-court case is Apple v. Samsung, 12-cv-630, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
Cost of Silicon Valley Satellite Patent Office Triples Estimate
The cost of building out a permanent Silicon Valley satellite office for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in San Jose, California, that is set to open in October has reached $18.2 million, triple the original estimate, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
When the patent office selected San Jose for one of four satellite offices in 2013, the cost of retrofitting a part of city hall to accommodate the operation was set at $6 million, according to the newspaper.
The increased costs are related to relocating city departments as well as meeting what San Jose Interim Public Works Director Barry Ng said are “some very distinct design challenges” required for patent-office operations, the Mercury News reported.
Much of the money will be provided by the federal government, and the city’s share should return in the form of rent over a seven-year period, the newspaper reported.
Anheuser-Busch Tells ‘John Appleseed’s’ Bottler to Change Name
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV has persuaded a fruit juice bottler to withdraw an application to register “John Appleseed’s” as a U.K. trademark, the Belfast Telegraph newspaper reported.
The Leuven, Belgium-based brewer said the name of the juice product was too similar to its Johnny Appleseed mark used with hard cider, according to the newspaper.
Colim Mackey, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, told the Telegraph that although he felt like “the heart was ripped out” of his business when he received the cease-and-desist notice from Anheuser-Busch’s trademark consultants, he withdrew his application and now calls his company “Mango Street.”
A spokesman for the brewer told the newspaper that once the company noticed Mackey’s application and the name similarity, “we felt consumers would be confused by multiple products.”
Texas A&M Said It Won’t Use ‘WRTS,’ Tells Licensees to Avoid It
Texas A&M University said it doesn’t have plans to buy or use a trademark applied for by the father of a football player, ESPN reported.
The father of Daylon Mack filed an application to register “WRTS” -- an acronym for “We Run This State” -- in June, four months before the player committed to Texas A&M, according to ESPN.
The phrase has been used as a Twitter Inc. hashtag -- a metadata tag -- by various people and accounts connected to the school, according to ESPN.
In a statement, the school also said it didn’t want any of its licensees to use the hashtag in connection with its trademarks, ESPN reported.
Hawaii to Consider Expanded Copyright Protection for Recordings
Hawaii’s Legislature is considering a measure to provide copyright protection to sound recordings made before 1972.
The text of the bill -- SB 1287 -- takes note of the California Civil Code section that was at issue in the case involving Sirius XM Holdings Inc., which was brought by the band known as the Turtles. In that case, a federal court in Los Angeles found that a California law covering ownership of the copyrights to pre-1972 sound recordings didn’t limit the owners’ rights to control public performances of the works.
The proposed Hawaiian legislation says extending comparable protection “could be of incredible benefit to older, local recording artists in Hawaii and their record labels that release sound recordings prior to February 15, 1972.”
If the measure passes into law, the author of a work recorded before that date will have exclusive ownership until Feb. 15, 2047.
The case involving Sirius is Flo & Eddie Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio Inc., 13-cv-05693, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
Freeplay Answers Complaints, Says It Isn’t a Copyright Troll
Freeplay Music LLC., a New York-based provider of music services, has responded to two suits that characterize the company as a “copyright troll.”
The term is used to describe entities that either make false accusations of copyright infringement or attempt to extort large settlements for alleged infringement with no intention of going to trial.
In filings made in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Freeplay said it’s been a music publisher since 2001. It denies allegations its business is built around “aggressive license fee demands” on individual consumers who use its music in videos they post on YouTube.
The company said it has enforced copyrights against “only a tiny percentage” of YouTube videos that have used music without authorization. It claims enforcement measures have been taken only against those who have linked videos to businesses using Freeplay’s music for a commercial use.
Freeplay accused Machinima Inc. of West Hollywood, California, and Collective Digital Studio LLC of Beverly Hills, California, of infringing copyrights to music. The New York-based company asked the court to bar unauthorized use of its music, and for awards of money damages of as much as $150,000 per work infringed, as well as attorney fees and litigation costs.
The two cases were filed by Machinima and Collective Digital Studio on Feb. 9. The companies are seeking a court declaration that they are not infringing Freeplay’s copyrights and have accused Freeplay of competing unfairly.
The cases are Collective Digital Studio LLC v. Freeplay LLC, 2:15-cv-00936, and Machinima Inc. v Freeplay LLC, 2:15-cv-00937, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). (Bloomberg)