The Apple versus Samsung battle is heading for the Supreme Court as the two giant manufacturers are to dispute design patent infringement damages. The now closely-watched dispute started after Apple accused Samsung Electronics of violating copyright infringement laws by copying a number of its patented designs.
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a design patent will generally protect and defend the design, or more exactly the aspect of a product, whilst a utility patent will deal with how the product functions and its utility.
Back in 2012, a grand jury found that a number of older Samsung smartphones had indeed infringed a total of three aspect and design patents, as the phones borrowed from the iPhone both the rounded bezel design, the icon layout visible on the home screen, and the face of the Apple smartphone.
Samsung proceeded to appeal to the court as it questioned their interpretation of the law, based on which the company would have to give Apple, as damages for copyright infringement, all the profit gathered from selling the respective smartphones. Their position stated that the design patents were minor features of the general product, and not decisive in its general appeal.
Samsung is being backed in the matter by a number of other tech companies, legal experts, and trade groups as product innovations depend on the outcome of the patent trial.
The patent law that has been referred to when making the decision was penned out in the 17th Century, when products had far simpler designs and states that if any person or company decides to use, copy, or imitate a patented design, registered by a different human or legal entity can be held liable to pay to the rightful owner a sum total of its profits from the design.
As modern day products feature tens of thousands of patents for just a single product, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which has already sent a brief to the court back in January, would propose that a modification be made so that the “article of manufacture” taken into account by the respective law and its consequent due payment refer to the smallest article of the patent, and not to the whole device.
In the Apple versus Samsung battle, the contestant states that seeing as the design sells the product, and as profits from it are difficult to determine, all the infringer’s profit should pertain to the patent owner, or else nothing would be recovered.
The Supreme Court granted the South Korean Samsung’s petition in regards to the patent designs, which would total a damage of $399 million out of the $930 million sum the company has to pay to Apple after both design and utility infringements were demonstrated.
The Supreme Court partially allowed the appeal because the question still stands: should one pay for the whole device or just the sum money which could be attributed to the copied patent?
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