Samsung is appealing to the US Supreme Court to take on its legal fight with Apple over smartphone designs, where more than half a billion dollars is at stake.
The South Korean electronics company is making a last-ditch effort to overturn a ruling that it says applies patent law too broadly and could impede competition in the technology market by awarding “excessive” damages to patent holders.
Samsung also argues that the verdict in 2012 that it copied the iPhone’s design and appearance could also encourage so-called patent trolls, who are accused of misusing the system to extract payments through litigation.
Earlier this month, Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548m in damages relating to the same three patents at issue in the case that is now being escalated to the Supreme Court. Samsung said then that it reserved the right to reclaim the funds if the verdict is subsequently overturned.
But despite the substantial sums at stake, Samsung argues that its petition goes beyond mere self-interest.
“Samsung is escalating this case because it believes that the way the laws were interpreted is not in line with modern times,” Samsung said. “If the current legal precedent stands, it could diminish innovation, stifle competition, pave the way for design patent troll litigation and negatively impact the economy and consumers.”
The Supreme Court is Samsung’s last recourse in a case that began four years ago when Apple sued its rival, alleging that several of its smartphones had copied the iPhone. As well as its utility patents, Apple accused Samsung of infringing three of its design patents. These covered the iPhone’s rectangular screen and lozenge-shaped speaker, its bezel and single round button, and its colourful grid of square app icons.
The jury in San Jose found that more than a dozen of Samsung’s smartphones infringed these designs, a verdict that was subsequently affirmed by the federal circuit court of appeals.
Samsung’s latest petition centres on two questions. The first relates to how juries are instructed during cases involving design patents. Samsung argues judges should give more detailed guidance on how the patents are applied. A similar principle was established for utility patents by the Supreme Court in the case of Markman v Westview Instruments in 1996.
Samsung is escalating this case because it believes that the way the laws were interpreted is not in line with modern times
Samsung asks in its petition: “Where a design patent includes unprotected non-ornamental features, should a district court be required to limit that patent to its protected ornamental scope?”
The second question challenges the law that infringers of design patents should pay damages up to and including the entire profit of the protected product. “Such unjustified windfalls could hamper the progress of science,” Samsung said in a statement on Monday.
The second question in its petition reads: “Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?”
Samsung says that other tech companies, including Facebook and eBay, voiced support on these issues when it was appealing to the federal circuit. But critics argue that reducing damages would remove the deterrent intended by the law and that any amendment should be a matter for the US Congress, not the Supreme Court.
“The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values,” Apple said. “We value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy.”
If the Supreme Court does take the case, it will be the first time in more than 100 years that it has addressed the issue of design patents. A ruling would then be likely by late 2016 or early 2017.
Resource : http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/fa489fd8-a292-11e5-bc70-7ff6d4fd203a.html