Supreme Court tosses Ap­ple’s pa­tent win

$339M judg­ment against Sam­sung over­turned.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Rex Crum

In a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion Tues­day, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lower court’s $399 mil­lion judg­ment against Sam­sung for vi­o­lat­ing patents in­volv­ing Ap­ple’s iPhone.

The de­ci­sion over­turns a vic­tory that Ap­ple had won in the U.S. Fed­eral Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals. The case will now go back to that court for any fur­ther pro­ceed­ings, in­clud­ing de­ter­min­ing what, if any, penal­ties Sam­sung may have to pay Ap­ple.

Tech giants such as Google, Face­book and Hewlett Packard En­ter­prise had urged the Supreme Court to take up Sam­sung’s ap­peal of its pa­tent loss to Ap­ple, warn­ing that the out­come against Sam­sung “will lead to ab­surd re­sults and have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on com­pa­nies” be­cause of the im­pli­ca­tions of how pa­tent law is ap­plied to tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts such as smart­phones.

It was the first time the Supreme Court made a rul­ing on a prod­uct de­sign since 1885, when it heard a case in­volv­ing car­pet de­signs. Case Col­lard, an in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty lawyer in Den­ver with the law firm Dorsey & Whit­ney, said the 8-0 court opin­ion, writ­ten by Jus­tice So­nia So­tomayor, may end up be­ing his­tor­i­cal in its reach.

“The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion brings dam­ages law for de­sign patents into ac­cord with the dam­ages law for util­ity patents,” Col­lard said. “No longer can a pa­tent holder get all of the prof­its from the sales of a prod­uct in­fring­ing a de­sign pa­tent. In­stead, they may re­cover the prof­its at­trib­ut­able to the in­fring­ing fea­ture.”

So­tomayor wrote that the lower court went too far in its rul­ing when it de­clared Sam­sung had to pay fines based on the en­tire iPhone, in­stead of just the com­po­nents that may have been copied when Sam­sung was de­sign­ing its smart­phones.

Sam­sung didn’t re­turn a re­quest for com­ment. Ap­ple said in a state­ment that the case had “al­ways been about Sam­sung’s bla­tant copy­ing of our ideas, and that was never in dis­pute.”

Rob En­derle, di­rec­tor of tech­nol­ogy re­search firm the En­derle Group, said the court’s rul­ing “is pro-com­pe­ti­tion and pro-de­vel­op­ment and anti-pa­tent troll” be­cause the ear­lier rul­ing would have put any firm found com­pro­mis­ing on a sin­gle pa­tent in a com­plex tech­nol­ogy de­vice po­ten­tially li­able for all the prof­its from the sale of that prod­uct.

“Both tac­ti­cally and strate­gi­cally this rul­ing is good for Sam­sung,” En­derle said.

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