Last week we brought you news that Apple had requested and been granted an injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone. Apple claimed that the phone violated a number of its patents. U.S. District Court judge Lucy Koh agreed that Apple was likely to be able to prove its case at trial, and granted the injunction pending Apple’s payment of a $96 million bond. Apple, as you might expect, quickly dug through their couch cushions and paid the bond. Samsung, also as you might expect, quickly appealed the injunction but was just as quickly denied, prompting Samsung and Google to get to work on a software update to the Galaxy Nexus that would alleviate the infringement problem. As a result, the Galaxy Nexus was pulled from Google Play last week.
Late Friday afternoon, though, Samsung was back in court asking that the injunction be stayed pending their appeal to the Federal Circuit Court. Judge Koh ultimately relented. Bloomberg reports that on Friday afternoon she issued an order staying the injunction until Thursday, July 12. On Thursday Apple will present their response to Samsung, and will, presumably, argue that the injunction should go forward as planned. By that time, though, it may be too late, as Google may already have finished the aforementioned update. If that’s the case, then Judge Koh may well overturn the injunction, since the infringement that prompted it will no longer be occurring.
This incident has been one of the most significant in the long-running patent war between Apple and the various makers of Android-based smartphones – Samsung, HTC, Motorola, etc. For a long time now it’s been plain that the legal battles between Apple and other smartphone makers have been a proxy for Apple’s rivalry with Google, born in part of Steve Jobs’s hatred of Google due to his conviction that Android is an iOS ripoff. While Google hasn’t paid a whole lot of attention to these battles, the Galaxy Nexus is different. The Galaxy Nexus is Google’s flagship Android phone. It’s the only “pure Google” (i.e., lacking carrier tampering with the OS) Android phone. It’s also first in line for the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean rollout coming later this month. If Google can’t sell the one device that’s theirs alone (or as close as it can be), then that’s a big hairy deal for them.
Whether the kerfluffle over the Galaxy Nexus will prompt Google to take up a more direct role in Android manufacturers’ patent battles with Google remains to be seen, though it’s beginning to look likely. If this continues, we may wind up getting the Apple-Google throwdown we’ve all been wanting.