Today, Thu., Oct. 11, 2012, in Apple v. Samsung, No. 2012-1507, the Federal Circuit (Prost, Moore and Reyna) reversed preliminary injunctive relief where the patentee did not establish that the accused infringing feature in a multicomponent device drove consumer demand for the entire enjoined device.  This is an important case in the Federal Circuit’s recent trend to rein-in relief available from accused infringement by one component of a multicomponent device.

Apple asserted that the Quick Search Box (QSB) feature in Samsung’s Android Galaxy Nexus device infringed a patent directed to a “particular implementation” of a “unified search” feature for searching data in several storage locations.  Apple argued that its Siri assistant included a unified search feature, and that Siri provided some of the customer demand for its iPhone.  But Apple had not shown that the accused Android QSB feature – unified search alone without other Siri features – drove customer demand for the entire accused Samsung device.

The Court ruled that Apple had not shown the required nexus between the accused infringement and irreparable harm:

The causal nexus requirement is not satisfied simply because removing an allegedly infringing component would leave a particular feature, application or device less valued or inoperable.  A laptop computer, for example, will not work (or work long enough) without a battery, cooling fan, or even the screws that may hold its frame together, and its value would be accordingly depreciated should those components be removed.  That does not mean, however, that every such component is “core” to the operation of the machine, let alone that each component is the driver of consumer demand.  To establish a sufficiently strong causal nexus, Apple must show that consumers buy the [Samsung] Galaxy Nexus because it is equipped with the apparatus claimed in the [asserted] patent—not because it can search in general, and not even because it has unified search.

The Court concluded “[t]his record does not permit the inference that the allegedly infringing features of the Galaxy Nexus drive consumer demand.”  Even if Samsung’s sales themselves injure Apple, “there is not sufficient showing that the harm flows from Samsung’s alleged infringement.”

This decision follows the Court’s recent LaserDynamics decision that similarly held that damages may not be based on an entire multicomponent device – laptop computer – where the patentee has not shown that the patented feature – an optical disc drive function – drives consumer demand for the entire device (the decision used a similar laptop computer hypothetical).