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Apple Wins Ruling in Samsung Patent Case Over iPhone Features

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Apple was legally entitled to an injunction barring Samsung Electronics from using certain patent-protected features in its smartphones, sending the case back to a lower court for review.

The features in dispute include iPhone’s slide-to-unlock, autolinks (such as click-to-call) and text autocorrect, on which Apple holds several patents.

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a 2-1 decision in Apple’s favor. It said a Northern California federal district court — which had denied Apple’s request for an injunction to prevent Samsung from using the features — erred in putting the burden of proof on Apple that Samsung’s infringement was the sole cause of lost sales. The court also ruled that Apple had established that monetary damages alone were not enough to rectify the harm done.

“The right to exclude competitors from using one’s property rights is important. And the right to maintain exclusivity — a hallmark and crucial guarantee of patent rights deriving from the Constitution itself — is likewise important,” the court said.

But the decision could have broader in establishing patent rights of defendants. As the appeals court concluded, “If an injunction were not to issue in this case, such a decision would virtually foreclose the possibility of injunctive relief in any multifaceted, multifunction technology.”

Last year, a federal jury in San Jose found that Samsung had violated two Apple patents and awarded Apple $120 million in damages; that was far less than the $2.2 billion Apple had sought. Samsung is appealing that decision.

Apple’s injunction request applies to Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphones, which the Korean consumer-electronics giant has long since stopped selling. Samsung has said that none of its current Galaxy models use the two Apple-owned patents it was found to have infringed.

In its decision Thursday, the Federal Circuit vacated the lower court’s order denying Apple’s proposed injunction and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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