Apple v Samsung patent litigation: Federal Court appoints two-judge panel
On Monday 25 February 2013, Apple and Samsung returned to the Federal Court of Australia to resume their long-running patent dispute relating to each other’s smartphone and tablet products. However, for the first time in the history of the Federal Court, a two-judge panel has now been appointed to hear the trial at first instance. Justice David Yates has now joined Justice Annabelle Bennett who has been presiding over the case since its commencement in July 2011.
The complexity of the case and the sheer volume of material likely to be considered by the Court may be the reason behind the appointment of a second judge. Apple is alleging that Samsung has infringed 19 of its patents. In return, Samsung has launched a cross-claim seeking to revoke some of those patents. Samsung has also alleged that Apple has infringed some of its patents. It is quite unusual for patent infringement litigation in Australia to involve more than a handful of claims, and the large number of patents generally applicable to a tablet or smartphone may go some way to explaining the size of the case.
Typically in Federal Court cases in Australia, a single judge hears a trial at first instance and if that decision is subsequently appealed, a panel comprising an odd number of judges (usually three) is appointed to hear the appeal. Having two judges hear the initial case raises the interesting question of what the overall verdict will be if the two judges reach different conclusions. The Court may also divide the issues to be determined, so that each judge decides different parts of the case, thereby reducing the possibility of inconsistent judgments.
The trial is currently expected to run until at least the end of 2013.