Apple's patent fracas with Samsung was dealt a counterblow today. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the district court in California overstepped when it granted Apple's injunction against selling the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the United States.
Apple has been fighting Samsung hard in the courts, challenging the Korean electronics maker over various alleged patent infringements as part of a general pattern of attacks against Android. Most of the reason for this particular injunction was the "604" patent, which apparently covers a unified search tool that could be anything from the search box at the top of a window to a Google search widget on a smartphone home screen.
U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh granted the injunction; she also oversaw the major patent trial that took place this year between Apple and Samsung. Samsung argued that the sales of the Nexus were too poor to constitute any real threat to Apple's iPhone business, an argument the appeals court gave a nod to in its decision: "To show irreparable harm, it is necessary to show that the infringement caused harm in the first place. Sales lost to an infringing product cannot irreparably harm a patentee if consumers buy that product for reasons other than the patented feature."
Any victory at this point is good news for Samsung. Its patent trial with Apple earlier this year ended very badly for it, with a jury agreeing with the vast majority of Apple's patent infringement claims and awarding a massive damage bill.
Apart from the Galaxy Nexus, Samsung was able to get lifted the injunction against one other device, the Galaxy Tab 10.1. On the other hand, Apple is continuing to press the attack, with many other devices--such as the Samsung Galaxy S III--newly targeted as infringing on Apple's intellectual property.