Jus­tices raise doubts about judg­ment against Sam­sung

Jamaica Gleaner - - BUSINESS - – AP – AP

THE SUPREME Court is rais­ing se­ri­ous doubts about a US$399-mil­lion judg­ment against smart­phone maker Sam­sung for il­le­gally copy­ing parts of the patented de­sign of Ap­ple’s iPhone.

Jus­tices hear­ing ar­gu­ments Tues­day in the long-run­ning dis­pute seemed trou­bled that Sam­sung was or­dered to pay all the prof­its it earned from 11 phone mod­els even though the fea­tures at is­sue are just a tiny part of the de­vices.

But some jus­tices strug­gled over how a jury should be in­structed if the case is sent back to a lower court.

“If I were a ju­ror, I wouldn’t know what to do,” said Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy.

Jus­tice Stephen Breyer ap­peared to em­brace a test pro­posed by Face­book, Google and other in­ter­net com­pa­nies that would out­line new lim­its on such dam­age awards. Other jus­tices seemed to favour a dif­fer­ent test pro­posed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“Why can’t we just ask the lower courts to lis­ten to your ar­gu­ments and work it out,” Breyer asked at one point.

The out­come could have rip­ple ef­fects across the high-tech in­dus­try as the court bal­ances the need to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion against a de­sire to pro­tect lu­cra­tive de­sign patents. It marks the first time in more than 120 years that the high court has taken up a patent dis­pute over a prod­uct’s de­sign.

The case is part of a se­ries of high-stakes law­suits be­tween the tech­nol­ogy ri­vals that be­gan in 2011. None of the early-gen­er­a­tion Sam­sung phones in­volved in the law­suit re­mains on the mar­ket.

Sam­sung says the hefty award ig­nores the fact that its phones con­tain more than 200,000 other patents that Ap­ple does not own. Ap­ple ar­gues that the ver­dict is fair be­cause the iPhone’s suc­cess was di­rectly tied to its dis­tinc­tive look, hailed as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary prod­uct when it was un­veiled in 2007.

Ap­ple sued over Sam­sung’s du­pli­ca­tion of a hand­ful of dis­tinc­tive iPhone fea­tures for which Ap­ple holds patents: the flat screen, the rounded rec­tan­gle shape of the phone, and the lay­out of icons on the screen.

The com­pa­nies are wran­gling over how much Sam­sung is re­quired to com­pen­sate Ap­ple un­der an 1887 law that re­quires In his Septem­ber 26, 2016 file photo, Brazil’s for­mer Pres­i­dent Luiz Iná­cio Lula da Silva lis­tens as Rio de Janeiro may­oral can­di­date Jandira Feghali speaks dur­ing a rally in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. patent in­fringers to pay “to­tal profit.” At is­sue is whether that means all the prof­its from phone sales, or just the profit re­lated to the spe­cific com­po­nents that were copied.

The fed­eral ap­peals court in Wash­ing­ton that hears patent cases sided with Ap­ple.

The ar­gu­ment comes at a rough time for Sam­sung. The com­pany an­nounced Tues­day that it is dis­con­tin­u­ing pro­duc­tion of Galaxy Note 7 smart­phones per­ma­nently after re­ports that even the re­place­ments were catch­ing fire. That model was not part of the patent lit­i­ga­tion.

At­tor­ney Zanin did not speak of the specifics of the new charges, but said Lula was the “elected en­emy” of po­lit­i­cally biased Brazil­ian au­thor­i­ties and men­tioned those in­volved in the Petro­bras probe.

Zanin also said he will file a pe­ti­tion to re­move Moro, who pre­sides over many of the sta­teoil re­lated in­ves­ti­ga­tions, from cases re­lated to Lula.

Among his rea­sons: Moro’s pres­ence in busi­ness fo­rums or­gan­ised by São Paulo’s mayor elect, who is now a key mem­ber of cen­tre-right Brazil­ian So­cial Democ­racy Party, the main ad­ver­saries of Lula’s Work­ers’ Party.

“There has been no re­spect to the for­mer pres­i­dent’s le­gal as­sur­ances,” Lula’s at­tor­ney said. “There is a will to keep Lula out of the 2018 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions” via le­gal wran­gling.

The press of­fice of the court where Moro sits told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he will only an­swer in writ­ten de­ci­sions.

Lula leads early polls for a first vote in 2018, but would lose the run-off against the vast ma­jor­ity of other po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls.

AP PHOTO/LEO COR­REA

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