Ruling on design patents are like a thing of the past, like more than a 100-year old thing of the past. It has been more than a century since the Supreme Court has ruled on a design patent case, but that could change come 2017. This is because the Supreme Court has to arrive to a ruling in the case of Apple vs. Samsung’s design patent lawsuit by June 2017, before the end of the court’s term.
The rivalry between the two smartphone giants has finally reached the Supreme Court. From the market to the courthouse, the battle continues. The fight, however, has been a long struggle.
History of the design patent lawsuit
In 2012, Apple sued Samsung on the grounds of patent design infringement. Apple claims that there are three things that the Korean company copied:
- The black rectangular shape and rounded corners with the patent number D618,677
- The bezel on the surrounding rim with the patent number D593,087
- The colorful grid of 16 icons with the patent number D604,305
This covers two types of patent infringement – design patents and utility patents. The former protects a product’s unique look, while the latter protects its functional parts.
Apple came out victorious in the original 2012 case, with Samsung being ordered to pay the “total profits” they made from the phones in question. The Korean company was slapped with a 1.05 billion-dollar verdict, which was later reduced to $548 million, based on the patent infringement alone.
According to Samsung, the “fee is exorbitant”, and Apple’s claim is said to be “tantamount to an infringer of a patented cupholder being forced to pay the cupholder patent holder the entire profits on a car”. Samsung further insisted that the verdict should have only cost $399 million.
And this is exactly the amount that the company is looking to get back in the Supreme Court case.
In their defense, Apple said that the significant financial damage that the verdict has imposed on Samsung will deter other people from stealing product designs, particularity patented ones.
The case presented to the Supreme Court, however, would focus more on how damages for design patent infringements are judged and awarded.
Samsung’s attorney, Kathleen Sullivan, argued that the reward to Apple should not have been “total profits”, because the infringement was only found on “three narrow patents” and not on the whole phone.
But Apple’s chief litigation officer, Noreen Krall, said that what Samsung did is a risk to future design innovation. “We firmly believe that strong design patent protection spurs creativity and innovation. And that’s why we’ve defended ourselves against those who steal our ideas.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling would be much awaited, especially by the hundreds of supporters from both sides of the fence. Apple has designers and educators on their side, while Samsung has a host of Silicon Valley companies rooting for their victory.
Outside of the court, the battle between two smartphone creators continue. The question about whether Samsung Galaxy S7 is better than the Apple iPhone 7 would have continued, if the S7 hadn’t been pulled out of the market.
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