Judge Koh wants second Apple-Samsung case put on hold

Settlement talks have made no progress

The judge overseeing Apple's two lawsuits against Samsung in California has indicated she would like to put the second case on hold pending resolution of the first case, the trial for which ended last summer with a big win for Apple.

"Do we have to have two cases going simultaneously?" Judge Lucy Koh asked lawyers for the companies at a pre-trial hearing on Thursday.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Apple, which brought the cases against Samsung, wants them to proceed in parallel, while an attorney for Samsung stressed the overlap between the cases.

"From Apple's point of view, the cases are different," in that they include different patents and issues, said attorney William Lee of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale, representing Apple.

An attorney for Samsung said there is "quite a bit of overlap" between the cases, but that she'd need to talk with Samsung before making a decision.

Koh told the attorneys to talk with their clients, confer with each other and then file a joint report to her by March 7 laying out their positions.

Apple is pursuing two cases against Samsung before the same judge at the same U.S. District Court in Northern California. Both accuse Samsung of infringing Apple's patents in various products, including smartphones and tablets.

Apple scored a big win in the first case last summer, when a jury awarded it approximately a billion dollars in damages. Samsung has appealed that case, and Apple is still fighting to get an injunction that would permanently stop Samsung from shipping the infringing products.

The second lawsuit, which Apple filed last February, includes different patents and some newer products, including Samsung's Galaxy S3 smartphone. Samsung denies infringing Apple's patents and has filed counterclaims against the company.

Koh also asked the attorneys if there had been any further settlement discussions, and if there had, whether they had got anywhere. Lee indicated the settlement talks have made no progress.

Lawyers for the two sides were in court Thursday to give Judge Koh a tutorial that will help her decide how terminology in the companies' patent claims should be interpreted. Before the trial begins, Koh will want some agreement on how the language in the patents should be explained to a jury, assuming the case gets that far.

They discussed Apple's patent number 5,666,502, for instance, known as the "history list" patent, which describes a way of making text entry easier on a small device by presenting users with a list of previously typed terms.

Samsung argues that the patent is invalid because there was prior art, or previous examples of the invention. Its attorney cited the drop-down menus in Windows 95, as well as a developer tool called Turbo C++, which remembers previously typed text to make data entry easier.

"From a visual standpoint, your honor, there's really no difference," one of Samsung's attorneys argued. Even if the patent were valid, he told Koh, Samsung denies infringing it.

The hearing continued Thursday afternoon. There are 16 patents at issue in the case, eight from each side.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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