The battle for mobile gadget domination worldwide is fierce, and even more intense that what’s publicly seen in product sales. Legendary company Apple Inc. from the US and South Korean brand superstar Samsung have the enviable position of their combined smartphone production churning out over half total of the things as sold back in the year 2012. It’s not enough for Apple to be sharing accolades however, and they’ve since launched multiple lawsuits against Samsung for allegedly copying the design of the juggernaut iPhone series. One such litigation won by Apple saw the South Korean firm being forced to fork over $399 million awarded to their American competition. But this decision is now being called into question.
Bloomberg reports that the Supreme Court of the United States via a unanimous vote has instructed a lower court to perform a review of the $399 million case, only one chapter of a lengthy legal tussle between the two companies in courts all over the world that has been rumbling since 2011. SC Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking on behalf of the court, remarked that the award to Apple, amounting to Samsung’s 2011 profit, may not be wholly entitled to them. A federal appeals court has thus been tasked by the SC to decide whether Apple should only be allowed to recoup from Samsung’s $399M the amount of profits gained only from the specific components that were supposedly cribbed from the iPhone, a question that the highest court in the land opted not to answer by itself.
“The term ‘article of manufacture’ is broad enough to encompass both a product sold to a consumer as well as a component of that product,” Sotomayor said in the SC opinion that the lower court’s own finding can’t concur with how the federal patent statute was worded.
By the time the Apple v. Samsung case landed on the SC’s collective lap, it had been pared down to only a few main legal issues. While Apple agreed that it can only collect profits on suspect infringed components of a design and not the whole product, they also insist that Samsung has been unable to prove that they didn’t copy the iPhone wholesale rather than just some specific parts, entitling them to the whole profit. Samsung has fired back that proving such was supposed to be Apple’s job and not theirs. An appeals court had interpreted the federal patent statute strictly and decided that everything Samsung earned from their smartphones was Apple’s by rights. The South Korean firm had already transferred the amount, with a provision for reimbursement if a later ruling hews only to partial profit.
If the $399 million profit award sticks, the case would be precedent for other companies to pull the same reasoning on their competitors owing to the wording of design patent laws.
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