The over six-year old patent infringement dispute between Apple and Samsung, which has the former accusing latter of “blatantly copying” design elements of its iPhone models, is now headed to Supreme Court. The latest verdict in this case arrived last year in December, when a US federal court had asked the South Korean giant to pay close to $548 Million to Apple.
The case has become extremely complex, in all the time that it has traveled. For the Supreme Court, this will be the first ever case being fought on a design patent i close to a century. The last such case, as Bloomberg reports, was that involving spoon handles in the 1870s and carpets in the 1890s.
In the last judgement that came out via a US Federal court, it had been asked for Samsung to pay close to $548Mn to Apple over all the patent infringements that the latter had accused the former of. Samsung says the award — which represents its entire profit from 11 disputed phones — is a “disproportionate” sum for infringement of Apple’s patented design features. Apple, as mentioned earlier, is adamant on this reward, terming these infringements as “blatant copying” of its design features.
To be more specific, the design patents being questioned here, include “the rounded corners of its phones, the rim that surrounds the front face and the grid of icons that users view.” Last December, a US Federal court did rule in favour of Apple, only to be appealed by Samsung days later.
The Cupertino giant is keen on winning the full $399 million reward (the case involves approximately another $150 million focused on Samsung’s alleged infringement of Apple’s pinch-to-zoom patent). Both the companies have seen millions on legal fees and the logistics involved, in what could easily be termed as the final showdown in this era of smartphone wars. Moreover, both the companies — apart form this particular case — already have close to four dozen patent cases against each other.
In a metaphorical reply which Samsung provided to the court for this appeal, the South Korean giant says,
In urging the Supreme Court to take up the appeal, Samsung said the ruling was akin to awarding the entire profits on a car because of an infringing cup-holder. Apple rejects that analogy, saying that its patented features are more like the design of the entire car.
The issue at large now, is whether Apple wants to sue Samsung for certain aspects of design or the entire design in itself. According to court records (via Macrumours), Apple is said to have accepted the fact that patent owners can collect profits only “attributable to a particular component,” not the earnings of the entire Samsung smartphone.
At the same time, Apple said that Samsung “failed to show that the patented designs applied only to part of its phones” during the previous half-decade of court proceedings, so the latter company’s defense of paying less for individual parts of the smartphone shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
The cam has come at a critical time for both the companies. While Samsung continues to reel with the damages cause by its exploding Note 7s — the $1Bn recall program for which, has also resulted in newer explosions, Apple is undergoing a massive, $15Bn tax fight in Europe, along with having to deal with a dramatic fall in iPhone sales.
We’ll keep you posted more on this subject. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, the case is Samsung Electronics v. Apple, 15-777, and here is an infographic which depicts the entire timeline.
Founder of the The Tech Portal. Now a consulting editor for the platform. Has advised and worked with numerous early/mid-stage startups during past 5 years in various roles. You can click on his LinkedIn profile and drop in a message to get in touch.