Ban Samsung sales in the US? Sorry, Apple: Tech titans say 'No'

All except Nokia, that is


A group of technology companies led by Google has asked permission to let their collective opinion be known in the long-running patent dispute between Apple and its South Korean rival, Samsung.

The group, consisting of Google, HTC, Rackspace, Red Hat, and SAP, filed a motion with the US District Court of Northern California on Wednesday, requesting leave to submit an amici curiae brief – Latin for "friends of the court" – advising Judge Lucy Koh of their concerns regarding the outcome of the case.

In case you've lost track, the case in question is "the Big One" – the one in which a jury found that Samsung's tablets and phones had infringed Apple patents and awarded the fruity firm $1.05bn in damages.

Since then, the two companies have been bickering over the amount of the judgment. First Judge Koh denied a motion by Apple to triple the damages. Then she reduced the award to $600m and ordered a new trial over the remaining $450m – and on it goes.

In the wake of the original judgment, however, Apple also requested a permanent injunction banning Samsung from selling its infringing products in the US. Judge Koh denied that request, but Cupertino appealed – and that appeal is what Google and the other tech firms would like to weigh in on.

The companies' motion, obtained by Groklaw, doesn't say exactly what their position is, but its wording strongly suggests that they think an injunction should remain off the table:

Amici are all innovative technology companies that develop and provide a variety of products and services that, like the mobile devices at issue in this appeal, incorporate a wide array of features. As such, an issue presented in this appeal – whether a court may enjoin the sale of innovative and technologically complex products based on the incorporation of trivial patented features without evidence that the accused features drive sales of the products – is a matter of great concern to amici.

Apple, naturally, would prefer Google and the others to keep out of it, and has filed its own brief arguing that Google, in particular, has no business trying to influence Judge Koh's ruling:

The lead party on the brief, Google, Inc., admittedly has a direct interest in the outcome of this appeal. As the motion explains, Google is the developer of the Android operating system running on the Samsung smartphones that Apple seeks to enjoin in this case. That interest conflicts with the traditional role of an amicus as "an impartial friend of the court – not an adversary party in interest in the litigation."

Despite that argument, however, it's likely the companies' brief will still be accepted, even if it has to be entered without Google's name on it. HTC competes directly with Samsung, but none of the other companies involved is even in the mobile phone business.

They do care about patents, though. Rackspace, in particular, has been on the warpath of late, challenging patent trolls in court and urging other companies to join its quest to reform patent laws.

Meanwhile, Nokia has already filed an amicus brief in Apple v. Samsung, only the Finnish firm says it doesn't support either side. Instead, it argues that Judge Koh got it all wrong when she denied Apple's request for an injunction, and that her decision should be reversed "based on the application of the wrong legal standard."

Confused yet? In a nutshell, Nokia claims that by requiring Apple to prove that Samsung's infringing features were the main reason consumers were buying the Korean company's kit, Judge Koh's ruling made it too difficult for companies to obtain injunctions – something that apparently concerns Nokia a great deal.

"The district court imposed an overly-strict and undue burden on the patent holder and invented new law out of whole cloth, which threatens to turn the traditional purpose of patent law on its head," Nokia's attorneys write.

If you're thinking that sounds an awful lot like Nokia would like to see Apple's request for an injunction granted because it's planning to sue for similar injunctions of its own, we'd tend to agree.

And so, the slowly turning wheels of the seemingly endless litigation between Apple and Samsung trundle ever forward. Judge Koh is expected to rule on Google & friends' motion to submit an amici brief in the coming days. The trial over the remaining $450m in damages that's still in dispute is set to begin in November. ®

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