Mixed Ruling Could Hurt Apple in Its Battle With Samsung -- Update

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Brent Kendall and Don Clark

A federal appeals court on Friday revived Apple Inc.'s legal claims that Motorola Mobility copied its iPhone patents, but the ruling could deal a blow to a separate case Apple is pressing against Samsung Electronics Co.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled an influential Chicago-based federal judge made multiple legal errors when he dismissed competing patent-infringement claims by Apple and Motorola in 2012.

The Federal Circuit said the judge misconstrued an Apple patent related to touch screen technology. The court also said Judge Richard Posner wrongly excluded expert testimony at trial in which both Apple and Motorola were seeking to make claims the other owed monetary damages for patent infringement. The ruling means that Apple will have a new opportunity to argue Motorola infringed its patents.

Motorola was on the losing end of several issues in Friday's ruling, though the court did decide the company could seek damages for Apple's alleged infringement of a Motorola patent on an essential cellular technology. However, the court ruled Motorola couldn't obtain an injunction blocking Apple products because Motorola had pledged to license its " standard essential" patents on reasonable terms.

Motorola Mobility, which declined to comment, is a unit of Google Inc. Lenovo Group Ltd. is in the process of buying Motorola's handset business.

Despite winning much of Friday's case, Apple suffered a setback that could hurt its position in patent litigation against Samsung. That is because the appeals court adopted a narrow interpretation of an invention covered by an Apple patent related to "data-tapping."

Legal experts tracking the case said the ruling could reduce the damages Apple may be able to seek for the patent at issue, but isn't likely to change the jury's mind about whether Samsung is guilty of patent infringement.

The patent, which covers a way to detect data in messages and convert them into a link that can be clicked by a user, is an issue in a high-stakes trial under way in San Jose, Calif., the second in that courtroom in which Apple has alleged that Samsung mobile devices infringe its patents.

In the latest case, Apple is seeking $2.2 billion from Samsung for infringing five patents.

Apple's data-tapping patent, which was filed in 1996, is considered particularly broad and accounts for the biggest portion of the company's damage claims.

Samsung has countered by saying that Apple infringed two of its patents and is seeking $7 million.

The companies had been expected to begin closing arguments Monday. Because of the appeals court ruling, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh on Friday said that additional arguments related to the data-tapping patent may be presented Monday.

Apple and Samsung declined to comment.

The two biggest makers of smartphones have been battling in court for years because of Apple's contention the Korean company's handsets copied many features that were introduced to the market with the iPhone in 2007. Some of Apple's arguments relate to features of Google's Android operating system--used by Samsung and others--but Apple hasn't sued Google directly over Android.

Apple won a jury verdict in the San Jose court in August 2012, winning a $1.05 billion damage award that was later reduced to $930 million. Samsung is appealing that verdict.

Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed to this article.

Write to Brent Kendall at brent.kendall@wsj.com and Don Clark at don.clark@wsj.com

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This article appears in: Technology

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