Apple is appealing a lower court ruling that rejected the iPhone maker's request that some older-model Samsung phones be permanently banned because they violate an Apple patent.
(Read more: Apple vs. Samsung debate: Which really makes more money?)
At stake is whether judges can permanently ban the sale of a complex device like a smartphone if a court finds that it violates a patent that covers just one of the device's hundreds of features. Samsung and other smartphone makers say a decision in favor of Apple could cripple the market.
At an hour-long hearing in Washington, U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Bryson questioned whether Apple wanted to use the appeal to set a precedent that would allow it to seek sales bans for newer Samsung phones in an expedited fashion.
"Is that really what we're dealing with?" Bryson asked.
The current case has dragged on for two years.
(Read More: How Obama's veto of iPhone ban will change tech wars)
Apple lawyer William Lee acknowledged that if the iPhone maker's injunction request was granted, the company would seek a so-called contempt proceeding to go after newer Samsung phones.
The case is one of many between the two phone makers as they accuse each other of patent violations in a bid to dominate a fast-growing market for mobile devices.
Samsung's popular Galaxy smartphones and tablets run on Google's Android operating system, which Apple's late co-founder, Steve Jobs, once denounced as a "stolen product." Apple says Samsung has infringed its patents and caused financial losses. Samsung denies it copied Apple's patented features.