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Apple vs Samsung pretrial: Judge rules in favour of Apple's autocomplete patent

In pretrial motions before the March 31 court date, Judge Lucy Koh dismissed one of Samsung's claims and ruled in favour of Apple's autocomplete patent.
January 23, 2014

It’s time to grab some snacks, as this year’s Samsung vs Apple patent disputes are about to kick off. However, ahead of the scheduled March 31st court date, Judge Lucy Koh has already made a couple of important rulings which lean the current case in Apple’s favour.

Last year, at the start of this latest lawsuit, both Samsung and Apple were asserting five patents each. However Samsung’s patent regarding “multimedia synchronization” has been found invalid by Judge Koh, leaving Samsung one patent down. The reason – Apple managed to successfully argue that this patent, numbered 7577755, should never have been issued as Samsung already owned a similar patent, numbered 7587466, regarding “acquisition and synchronization of digital media to a personal information space”.

It’s also worth noting that Samsung had acquired patent ‘757 back in September 2011, which was five months after the patent dispute with Apple began. The Judge most likely feels that this patent was acquired only to leverage an offensive counterclaim against Apple.

Perhaps more importantly though, Judge Koh found that Samsung’s Android devices so clearly infringe upon Apple’s patent for a “method, system, and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations” that a jury need not even look at it. In other words, the Judge believes that Samsung has infringed on Apple’s patent for the widely used keyboard auto-complete feature, at least as far as touchscreen devices are concerned. The only remaining question is how valid is Apple’s patent?

This means that Apple only has to defend the validity of its auto-complete patent, come the court date, in order to deal a substantial blow to Samsung. Worryingly though, if Samsung is found guilty of infringing on this patent it would set a precedent that might find any number of other Android manufacturers guilty of infringing on the same patent. It could also have implications for the range of popular keyboard apps and perhaps Google’s operating system as a whole.

These pretrial findings are likely to have a substantial impact when the two companies’ CEO meet for negotiations in the next four weeks. We’ll have to see if the two can come to an out of court agreement, or if any new claims can swing the balance of power back to Samsung.