Apple Files New Patent Lawsuit Against Samsung In California

Apple’s global campaign to stop its Korean rival from selling smartphones and tablets has faltered in recent months, but the iPhone-maker appears undeterred.

Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is using two new patents for touchscreen technology, obtained in December, as the basis for yet another lawsuit.

In documents filed Tuesday in San Jose federal court, Apple revealed it is using newly-granted US Patents 8,074,172 and 8,086,604 to seek a temporary injunction against Samsung.

The first of the patents appears to cover the spelling and auto-correct feature, used in iPhones and iPads, that results in a proposed word hovering over letters that a user is typing. Here is what the patent says:

One aspect of the invention involves a method that includes: in a first area of the touch screen, displaying a current character string being input by a user with the keyboard; in a second area of the touch screen, displaying the current character string or a portion thereof and a suggested replacement for the current character string […]

It is harder to discern what exactly the second patent covers as its description is in the form of lawyer-language gobbledygook (perhaps one of our engineer readers can offer a plain-English translation?) :

The present invention provides convenient access to items of information that are related to various descriptors input by a user, by means of a unitary interface which is capable of accessing information in a variety of locations, through a number of different techniques. Using a plurality of heuristic algorithms to operate upon information descriptors input by the user, the present invention locates and displays candidate items of information for selection and/or retrieval. Thus, the advantages of a search engine can be exploited, while listing only relevant object candidate items of information.

The new lawsuit comes after Apple suffered a setback in the same court in December when U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have barred the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy tablet. Apple is appealing that initial ruling and continuing to seek a permanent injunction to bar the tablet which it says Samsung “slavishly” copied. That lawsuit also concerns three Samsung smartphones.

The new lawsuit differs from the earlier one in that it turns on utility patents not design patents which protect only the ornamental aspects of an invention. Apple has so far been using design patents to protect the iPad but its efforts are unlikely to succeed; Judge Koh appears to have agreed with Samsung that the iPad’s design was preempted by an earlier proto-type from 1994.

The new suit, based on the utility patents, gives Apple a fresh kick at the can.

Apple has been engaged in a worldwide effort to use its intellectual property to keep Samsung out of the market but has so far come up short. Its most recent setback came yesterday in Germany where a court said Samsung can sell a reworked tablet that Apple had briefly banned.

It is not clear whether the new California lawsuit is aimed at Samsung’s tablet, its phones or both. The complaint has been filed under seal so, for now, the only public information available includes references to the new patent numbers in the docket and a filing (embedded below) that says the new case is connected to the prior one. The docket also shows that Apple is once again seeking a preliminary injunction.

The complaint and other documents are likely to be unsealed in coming weeks or months. The news agency Reuters (NYSE: TRI) has recently called attention to federal courts’ questionable practice of reflexively sealing documents, which are normally public, on a corporation’s request. In response to the story, Judge Koh herself issued new guidelines to make the practice less pervasive.

Apple’s feud with Samsung has reportedly cost it more than $100 million in legal fees and may be driven in part by a personal vendetta of its late founder, Steve Jobs.

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