California court rules Samsung infringed Apple patent ahead of trial

A Samsung patent was also declared invalid

A court in California has ruled that Samsung Electronics infringed in its devices an Apple patent on word recommendations during text input, ahead of a March trial.

Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division also ruled that a Samsung patent in the suit was invalid.

At the center of the second patent lawsuit before the court are some of Apple and Samsung's latest smartphones, media players, tablets and computers, including the Galaxy S III, iPhone 5, iPad mini and the fourth-generation iPad, also referred to as the iPad 4. The court earlier ordered the parties to limit their infringement contentions to five patents, 10 asserted claims, and 15 accused products per side.

Judge Koh ruled Tuesday that Samsung infringed Apple's patent that discloses a "method, system, and interface" for providing word recommendations that can be selected by users who are entering text into a mobile communication device. U.S. Patent No. 8,074,172, titled "Method, system, and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations," was issued to Apple on Dec. 6, 2011.

Samsung had held that claim 18 of the patent required a physical keyboard, which the accused Apple products lack. But the judge wrote in her order that "the court holds that no reasonable jury could conclude that the virtual keyboards of the '172 Accused Products fall outside of the plain and ordinary meaning of the term 'keyboard' in claim 18."

The Samsung patent, entitled "Multimedia synchronization method and device," covers synchronizing a number of devices in a multimedia environment so that users can access their music and video collection at different locations. Apple asserted that it was entitled to summary judgment that claims 1, 14 and 15 of the U.S. Patent No. 7,577,757 are anticipated by another patent, which the judge agreed to in her ruling.

The Tuesday ruling was not a complete win for Apple. In the same ruling, Judge Koh also denied Apple's motions for summary judgment of infringement of two of its patents and on the validity of one of its patents.

The CEOs of Apple and Samsung are scheduled to participate in mediation ahead of a March trial in the patent dispute. The meeting to be held by Feb. 19 is viewed with skepticism as similar mediation efforts have not been successful previously.(

In another lawsuit in the court, a jury awarded damages to Apple of US$1.05 billion in 2012, after deciding that Samsung had infringed on Apple's patents in its products. The damages were reduced after a second trial last year for recalculating a part of the damages, but Samsung still has to pay Apple about $930 million.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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