Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Federal Circuit Decisions concerning Smartphones Have Created Uncertainty regarding the Evidence Needed to Prove Irreparable Harm and Establish Entitlement to Injunctive Relief

Academic journal article Rutgers Computer & Technology Law Journal

Federal Circuit Decisions concerning Smartphones Have Created Uncertainty regarding the Evidence Needed to Prove Irreparable Harm and Establish Entitlement to Injunctive Relief

Article excerpt

  I. INTRODUCTION                  232  II. THE APPLE V. SAMSUNG CASES: BACKGROUND        233 III. THE CAUSAL-NEXUS REQUIREMENT HAS EVOLVED AT THE FEDERAL         235      CIRCUIT      A. The Federal Circuit First Considered the Causal-Nexus        235         Requirement in Apple I      B. The Federal Circuit Reiterated, and Perhaps Heightened, the  236         Causal-Nexus Requirement in Apple II      C. The Federal Circuit Refined the Causal-Nexus Requirement in  238         Apple III      D. The Federal Circuit Clarified the Causal-Nexus Requirement   241         in Apple V      E. Summary                                                      243  IV. COURTS HAVE APPLIED THE CAUSAL-NEXUS REQUIREMENT                244      INCONSISTENTLY   V. CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SEEKING TO SHOW OR REFUTE A CAUSAL NEXUS    259   VI. CONCLUSION                                                     761 

I. INTRODUCTION

In four decisions by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in two patent cases that Apple filed against Samsung, the court has appeared to flip-flop when describing the evidence needed to prove an essential element for injunctive relief: irreparable harm. A patentee must establish irreparable harm, among other things, to obtain a preliminary or permanent injunction. (1) And to establish irreparable harm, a patentee must demonstrate a sufficiently strong connection--or causal nexus--between the patent infringement and the alleged irreparable harm. (2)

In its Apple v. Samsung decisions, the Federal Circuit explained that "[s]ales lost to an infringing product cannot irreparably harm a patentee if consumers buy that product for reasons other than the patented feature." (3) So if "the accused product would sell almost as well without incorporating the patented feature," the infringement injures the patentee only insubstantially even if the accused product's sales cause substantial damage commercially. (4) Thus, the causal-nexus requirement (1) ensures that the infringement causes the irreparable harm "in the first place" (5) and (2) prevents the patentee from "leverag[ing] its patent for competitive gain beyond that which the inventive contribution and value of the patent warrant." (6)

This article discusses the causal-nexus requirement's evolution at the Federal Circuit based on two cases initially filed in April 2011 and February 2012. This article also discusses how various trial courts have applied the causal-nexus requirement when considering the propriety of injunctive relief. It then discusses points to consider when seeking to show or refute a causal nexus.

II. THE APPLE V. SAMSUNG CASES: BACKGROUND

Apple's 2011 case against Samsung has resulted in several Federal Circuit decisions, including two involving injunctions:

a May 2012 decision addressing Apple's appeal from the denial of a preliminary injunction ("Apple I") (7);  a November 2013 decision addressing Apple's appeal from the denial of a permanent injunction ("Apple III") (8);  a May 2015 decision addressing Samsung's appeal from a final judgment concerning liability and damages ("Apple IV"). (9) 

In the 2011 case, Apple alleged that more than twenty Samsung smartphones and tablet computers infringed several design and utility patents. (10) The design patents covered ornamental features in Apple's iPhones and iPads, such as the products' minimalist appearance and the graphical user interface's design, e.g., the arrangement of square icons with rounded corners. (11) The utility patents concerned a bounce-back feature, a pinch-to-zoom feature, and a double-tap-to-zoom feature. (12)

Apple's 2012 case against Samsung has also resulted in several Federal Circuit decisions, including two involving injunctions:

an October 2012 decision addressing Samsung's appeal from the grant of a preliminary injunction ("Apple II") (13);  a December 2015 decision addressing Apple's appeal from the denial of a permanent injunction ("Apple V") (14);  a February 2016 decision addressing cross-appeals from a final judgment concerning liability and damages ("Apple VI"). … 
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