Smartphone Patent Wars: Timeline of the Apple v. Samsung Legal Battle

Over the years, we’ve seen plenty of intellectual property lawsuits involving Apple Inc. (who, ahem, does not like to be called Apple, Inc.). Apple went after Digital Research and Microsoft during the ’80s and ’90s for copying the “look and feel” of the Macintosh OS. But in the last five years, Apple has initiated a flurry of litigation, commonly known as the mobile device patent wars, that is likely to have profound legal and historical significance.http:

The back-and-forth legal sparring has been largely between Apple and Samsung, with suits over both design and utility patents that have captivated the legal community, investors, and followers of software patent litigation. Below, we highlight some of the important milestones in this high stakes legal tussle.

Click the image for a graphical view of the timeline.

A Timeline of the Apple v. Samsung Patent Saga

April 15, 2011: Apple files complaint in US District Court for the Northern District of California against Samsung for patent infringement of iPhone and iPad. At the heart of the suit are three design patents or trade dress infringements. Apple accuses Samsung of “slavishly” copying their products in a way that was so “pervasive” as to make them indistinguishable from one another.

June 2011: Samsung countersues Apple over infringement of 3G data transfer features and nine other patents in South Korea, Japan, and Germany.

August 9, 2011: Apple wins a design-related preliminary injunction to halt sales of Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the European Union. Samsung appeals.

August 16, 2011: The injunction banning sales ban of Galaxy 10.1 lifted in European Union, but not in Germany.

September 2011: Apple’s injunction upheld in German courts. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales remain halted there. Shortly after, Dutch and Australian courts follow with similar decisions.

November 2011: Australian Court orders Apple to reveal iPhone 4S source code as part of evidence requested by Samsung. As a result, the well-concealed iPhone 4 design becomes public record.

December 2011: US Court refuses to ban Samsung products, though Judge Lucy Koh says infringement likely. Apple’s patent related injunction overturned and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 back on sale in Australia. These two decisions embolden Samsung, and they ramp up their offensive and file four more complaints in German courts.

January 27, 2012: For a second time, Samsung loses utility patent suit to Apple in Germany’s Mannheim Regional Court.

March 2012: The Hague District Court rejects Samsung’s request to ban the iPhone and iPad in the Netherlands.

May 12, 2012: Samsung hit with sanctions in the form of “adverse jury instruction” after California magistrate Judge Paul Grewal determined they didn’t do enough to preserve company emails that could have been used as evidence in the trial.

June 2012: Samsung wins 3G utility patent ruling in The Hague. Apple must pay compensation for infringing Samsung’s patents on older iPads and iPhones.

June 2012: Apple sues Samsung for infringement of auto-correct feature. A preliminary injunction in Apple’s favor is granted to prevent Samsung from importing the Galaxy Nexus and/or any other products into the U.S. based on disputed patents.

July 2012: British judge decides that Samsung tablets are “not cool” enough to infringe Apple’s IPad.

July 18, 2012: United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) awards Apple the “mother of all patents” that covers the graphical user interfaces Apple designed for a variety of multi-touch features.

August 2, 2012: Apple demands that Judge Koh dismiss the trial with winning verdict after Samsung leaks evidence to the press. Samsung counters with claims that Apple tampered with evidence.

August 16, 2012: Judge Koh to Apple’s attorneys: “Are you smoking crack?” after Apple’s legal team submitted a 75 page brief detailing over twenty new witnesses it wished to call on the last day of argument.

August 17, 2012: Last day of Samsung testimony in San Jose trial.

August 17, 2012: With minutes to spare of Judge Koh’s exacting timeline, Apple rests its case. All quiet in Judge Koh’s courtroom, for now.

August 24, 2012: After 3 days of deliberation, jury awards Apple $1.049 billion in damages for 6 of the 7 disputed patents.

August 31, 2012: A week after the $1.049 billion settlement, Apple files another complaint in Northern California, adding more patents to the long list they claim South Korea’s Samsung infringed.

October 23, 2012: USPTO declares all 20 claims of Apple’s rubber-banding patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381) invalid.

November 2012: UK Judge David Kitchin rules that Samsung’s tablets do not infringe the iPad’a design, orders Apple to run a public notice on website.

December 17, 2012: Judge Koh denies Apple’s motion for permanent injunction against Samsung Galaxy line of products. Samsung OK to sell products in US.

June 13, 2013: USTPO agrees to re-examine Apple’s claims for rubber banding patent.

November 12, 2013: Judge Koh to hold a limited damages retrial where Samsung may reclaim $400 million of the original $1.049 billion in damages from the original suit.

March 31, 2014: The second lawsuit in Northern California begins. At stake is not just a potentially huge settlement, but utility patents that cover things like the auto-complete function and multimedia synchronization, which are perhaps more important and valuable than ones disputed in the first trial.

This article is authored by

George Edwards - Software Expert Witness
George Edwards, PhD

Dr. George Edwards has more than a decade of experience as a scientist, engineer, and technical consultant to academic research labs, government agencies, and technology companies, and he has served as a software expert in various litigation contexts, including several patent infringement matters.