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Appeals court nixes a Galaxy Nexus ban requested by Apple

The ruling reverses a lower-court sales ban on the Samsung smartphone, one based on the likelihood that Apple would prevail in a patent lawsuit.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus
Samsung's Galaxy Nexus

Samsung got a much-needed break from the courts today, as an appellate court overturned a sales ban on its Galaxy Nexus phone.

Today's ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the district court in California "abused its discretion" in imposing a preliminary injunction on Galaxy Nexus sales.

The appeals court decision means that the case will go back to the court in California to be reheard, according to Reuters.

The appeals court found several flaws in Apple's arguments for a Nexus ban.

In one example, Apple claimed that the Quick Search Box used on the Nexus infringes one of its patents. But this search box is a feature of Android, not something specific to the Nexus.

"The release of the allegedly infringing version of the Android platform predates the release of the Galaxy Nexus, but Google is not a defendant in this suit," the appeals court said.

In another example, Apple tried to establish a "causal nexus," or a link between a cause and its effect, asserting that it would suffer harm without a ban on the Galaxy Nexus. But the appeals court determined that the district court "abused its discretion" in finding that Apple established such a causal nexus.

In one more example, Apple asserted that the Nexus uses the "unified search feature" in Siri, which was patented by Apple even though Samsung's phone offers no equivalent to Siri. But again the appeals court disagreed with the lower court's findings.

"To establish a sufficiently strong causal nexus, Apple must show that consumers buy the Galaxy Nexus because it is equipped with the apparatus claimed in the '604 patent -- not because it can search in general, and not even because it has unified search," the appeals court said. "The district court made no such determination."

This specific patent case stems back to February when Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung. In line with the suit, Apple asked the court to ban the sales of infringing products, including the Nexus. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh granted Apple's request in June.

But then the case went through several twists and turns.

Samsung appealed the ruling on July 1. Judge Koh quickly denied the request for a temporary lifting of the ban, as Apple posted a $95.6 million bond required for the ban. The bond covers losses to Samsung should the final ruling be found in its favor.

Samsung then took the case to the appeals court, which granted a temporary stay on the Nexus ban. On August 1, the appeals court extended that ban until it could reach a final verdict, the one handed down today.

This patent suit is unrelated to the one that Samsung lost in August, and doesn't affect injunctions against other Samsung products. But the appeals court's scrutiny of the finer points alleged by Apple could prove useful to Samsung in its overall legal battle with the iPhone maker.