09 December 2011

Breaking: High Court Rejects Apple Appeal Bid

Samsung has had a win today in Australia, where the High Court has refused Apple's application for 'Special Leave' to appeal from last week's decision of the Full Federal Court overturing the grant of a preliminary injunction against the launch of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (see Samsung v Apple – A Closer Look at the Appeal Decision).

Samsung will now be free to sell its tablet in Australia, at least pending a full trial and decision in Apple's primary infringement case in the Federal Court before Justice Annabelle Bennett.  Reportedly, we should see the galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australian stores before the end of next week, for those looking to pick up a last-minute Christmas present or two!

There is, at present, no date set down for the main infringement case to be heard.  However, Samsung's counter-suit against Apple's iPhone 4S, and other 3G devices, is scheduled to be heard during March and April next year (see Samsung Drops Injunction Demands, Grabs Reins in Apple Dispute).

For once in this ongoing saga, we are not surprised by today's decision. The High Court generally only grants Special Leave to appeal in cases where it considers that there is a need to clarify or correct the application of the law applied by a lower court, or where there is otherwise some significant issue of justice or public interest to be addressed.  That did not appear to be the case here.

Our own view is that the Full Federal Court's decision was a good one, which settles the law as to the approach to be taken when considering the grant of interlocutory injunctions in patent cases, and will stand us in good stead for the foreseeable future.  The High Court obviously agrees, and Apple was unable to raise any question of law or justice that would justify its intervention in the case.

In our opinion, Justice Bennett set the threshold for the grant of interlocutory relief too low.  As we have stated previously on this blog, an interim injunction barring a competitive product from the market prior to a full trial on the merits is an extraordinary remedy, and should only be granted in exceptional circumstances.  The difficulty that may arise in determining appropriate damages in complex circumstances does not alter the fact that when private litigants come to court seeking a decision in a commercial dispute, some form of financial compensation will almost always be an available remedy.

For further coverage of today's events, see Samsung slays Apple in tablet war at Fairfax Online, Galaxy Tab 10.1 heads to Christmas shelves at ITNews.com.au and Samsung wins, Galaxy Tab to go on sale at ZDNet Australia.


Trev said...

Hi Mark

Is there any significance to the "+ costs" that has been reported? Is this normal for a rejected decision in the High Court? Or does this somehow reflect on what the court thought of the worth of Apple's case?

Patentology (Mark Summerfield) said...

Thanks for raising this, Trev.

In Australian courts it is usual that the losing party is ordered to pay the costs of the winning party. In practice, the actual costs awarded are typically about 60-80% of what it really cost in legal fees etc to run the case.

But there is nothing unusual in an award of costs, and it does not reflect on the quality of Apple's case here. Abuses of process, in the rare cases they occur, may be punished with exemplary damages, which are something altogether different. Apple had a right to apply for special leave, regardless of the merits of its arguments.

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