Ap­ple-Sam­sung patent bat­tle re­vived in Cal­i­for­nia court

The Malta Business Weekly - - FRONT PAGE -

Ap­ple and Sam­sung are fac­ing each other in a Cal­i­for­nia court for a third trial in­volv­ing the same set of five patents.

Ap­ple was orig­i­nally awarded $1.05bn in 2012 af­ter a jury found the South Korean firm had in­fringed sev­eral of the iPhone’s in­no­va­tions.

That sum was re­duced to about $400m af­ter the first re­trial and other le­gal ef­forts by the Gal­axy smart­phone-maker.

But a fresh hear­ing be­came nec­es­sary af­ter a Supreme Court rul­ing on how the penal­ties were cal­cu­lated.

Re­trial judge Lucy Koh, who also sat in the first case, has said she in­tends to ap­ply a “Ground­hog Day” rule.

This ref­er­ence to the 1993 movie, in which a day re­peats it­self, re­stricts the two com­pa­nies to re­hash­ing the ev­i­dence they pre­sented be­fore rather than of­fer­ing up new facts.

Ju­rors must also stick to the pre­vi­ous judge­ment that Sam­sung copied three de­sign patents con­cern­ing the look of the orig­i­nal iPhone, and two util­ity patents in­volv­ing its pinch-to-zoom fea- ture and bounce-back scrolling ef­fect.

They may, how­ever, de­cide to set­tle on a dif­fer­ent award, based on the fact the Supreme Court has pro­vided them more lat­i­tude.

Nei­ther Ap­ple nor Sam­sung pro­vided com­ment when asked.

A de­sign patent is a 25-year reg­is­tered mo­nop­oly right, which de­scribes a new, orig­i­nal and or­na­men­tal de­sign for a man­u­fac­tured ob­ject.

They are called “reg­is­tered de­signs” in Europe and most parts of the world, but “de­sign patents” in the US.

In the cur­rent case, Sam­sung was found guilty of in­fring­ing three de­sign patents.

Two con­cern the front and rear look of the orig­i­nal iPhone’s body.

The third cov­ers the graph­i­cal user in­ter­face show­ing the lay­out of apps on its home­screen.

The re­trial cen­tres on sev­eral hand­sets that are no longer sold by Sam­sung, in­clud­ing the Droid Charge, Mes­mer­ize and Gal­axy S2.

Sam­sung had ob­jected to the size of the de­sign patent por­tion of the ex­ist­ing penalty, which had been deter­mined by how much profit it had made from sell­ing the hand­sets.

It ar­gued that con­sumers had not bought the phones for their aes­thet­ics alone, but also their func­tion­al­ity.

As such, it said, the amount should have been lim­ited to the value of the of­fend­ing parts and not the com­plete de­vices.

In De­cem­ber 2016, eight Supreme Court judges sided with its ar­gu­ment, and ruled that it was wrong that lower courts should al­ways con­sider the “rel­e­vant ar­ti­cle of man­u­fac­ture” in such cases to be the end prod­uct sold to con­sumers.

In­stead, the judges unan­i­mously de­cided that an award could be based solely on the value of the com­po­nents in­volved.

How­ever, the jus­tices did not set out how this should be ap­plied in prac­tice.

In­stead, they re­ferred the mat­ter back to the fed­eral court.

As a re­sult, the Cal­i­for­nia jury will still need to de­ter­mine what was the “rel­e­vant ar­ti­cle of man­u­fac­ture” in this case - the com­plete in­fring­ing smart­phones or just some of their parts.

Ap­ple may say it should still be the for­mer in this dis­pute, ar­gu­ing that the phones would have had no value with­out the de­signs of their bodies and user in­ter­face.

What­ever the ver­dict, it is likely to set a prece­dent for other USbased patent dis­putes.

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