Supreme Court Forgives Samsung $400m USD in Damages

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Supreme court
Steven Frame | Shutterstock.com

Part of a long-standing legal battle between Samsung and Apple ended recently when the Supreme Court dismissed nearly $400 million USD in damages Samsung was to pay. The ruling sets a new precedent for patent laws regarding devices, but the battle between Samsung and Apple may be far from over.

Apple and Samsung have been engaged in a lawsuit since 2011 over Samsung’s alleged patent violation in regards to the iPhone‘s display. Apple was initially awarded $1 billion USD in damages back in 2012, but thanks to contestation by Samsung, that figure has shrunk. Now, the Supreme Court has thrown out the remaining $400 million USD in damages.

The decision did not end the case. Yet, it did negate crucial parts of Apple’s arguments. Apple plans to pursue further action in a lower court.

“Apple released a statement saying that it is ‘optimistic the lower courts will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn’t right.'”

What the Decision Really Means

Initially, Apple had claimed that Samsung had copied the patented look and feel of the iPhone display. While the courts decided that Samsung had, in fact, violated the patents, the damages were assessed based on the total profits of Samsung’s device rather than the components that violated the patent.

According to the opinion given by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the text of the law decides this case. It all comes down to the term “article of manufacture,” which is used in patent law. According to the opinion of the court, this term covers both a product and the components of that product. Therefore, the court dismissed the damages sought by Apple that were initially based on the total price of the phone.

The Supreme Court has remanded the case to the lower courts, and both parties intend to pursue the matter there.

The Battle Continues

According to Apple, there is little to no debate regarding Samsung’s guilt. After the decision was handed down, Apple released a statement saying that it is “optimistic the lower courts will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn’t right.”

According to Rick McKenna of Foley & Lardner LLP, it will be the job of the lower court to determine the actual amount of damages that Samsung owes.

McKenna said in a statement that “In light of this decision, the lower courts must now determine the relevant “article of manufacture” for each of the infringed design patents and then potentially recalculate damages if the related article is something other than the entire smartphone.”

Another legal opinion came from Paul Berghoff with the law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff, who said that Samsung and Apple wouldn’t be able to settle the dispute themselves. Berghoff noted that the case was emotional, and such cases are difficult to reconcile in a rational way.

The case continues, but at least Apple now has a definitive answer from the Supreme Court regarding what they can ask for in damages.

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