A Five-year Battle Between Apple and Samsung Culminates Tomorrow

What a difference five years can make…

Need to Know

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear the first design patent case they have taken on in over a century, when Samsung and Apple present arguments on a $399 million patent infringement settlement that Samsung is charged with paying.

It’s the culmination of a five-year battle launched when Steve Jobs reportedly raged against the Android OS. “I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” he said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.”

Apple filed a $2.5 billion suit against the South Korean electronics giant, arguing that Samsung violated three Apple design patents – concerning the iPhone’s rectangular display, rounded shape, and UI elements – in the creation of their own Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

(The question of why Apple did not sue Google, creators of Android, remains open.)

In 2012, a California jury “found that Samsung infringed on a series of Apple’s patents on mobile devices, awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages.”

In December, 2015 – after four years of various court decisions, appeals, and dismissals – Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548 million to settle the dispute in Federal District Court, with the understanding that the company would get that money back if “the partial judgment is reversed, modified, vacated or set aside on appeal.”

Less than two weeks later, Samsung filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, “arguing that the legal framework for design patents… is outdated for the modern digital world.”

Previewing the arguments, Bloomberg explains, “In urging the Supreme Court to take up the appeal, Samsung said the ruling was akin to awarding the entire profits on a car because of an infringing cup-holder. Apple rejects that analogy, saying that its patented features are more like the design of the entire car.”

For both companies, there’s a lot more at stake than financial interests. “[The verdict] could… define the value of design work,” Financial Review writes, “which is increasingly valuable in the tech industry as products like smartphones become commodities.”


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