Cast your mind back to the prehistoric tech days of 2012, when Apple was awarded a significant victory over Samsung in a high-profile patent dispute. With a ruling of $1 billion in Apple’s favor, Samsung repeatedly appealed the decision and eventually whittled that figure down to the $548 million settlement it finally paid Apple in December 2015. But the story is not yet over, not by a long shot.
Even before the settlement payment, Samsung had filed papers to take the case to the Supreme Court under appeal, claiming the jury was ill-informed about the complexities of patent law. At the time, Samsung’s appeal was rejected, but no sooner had Samsung paid Apple than it filed a new appeal to the Supreme Court to have the verdict overturned and the money returned as part of a larger demand to have the patent law system reviewed and updated for modern times.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Apple has now urged the Supreme Court to ignore Samsung’s latest appeal and let sleeping dogs lie, claiming Samsung has “had its day in court – many days, in fact”. Naturally, Apple wants this whole thing to be over; after all, it got its money and won a substantial victory over its arch-rival. But Samsung has some pretty high profile supporters.
While Apple might be against the appeal – which could potentially see its favorable 2012 verdict overturned – Google, Facebook, Dell, eBay and HP, among others, have all thrown their support behind Samsung’s request. The case is not so much about Samsung and Apple now than about how patent law is understood more than 120 years after its last revision and how damages are awarded in patent infringement cases.
The prime target of the dispute is the contentious “total profit” rule whereby all profits made by a product found to infringe on a patent can be awarded to the patent holder. That means if a smartphone with a quarter million patents involved in its production is found to infringe on even one of them, all of the money made from that device can go to the holder of that patent. As Samsung rightfully notes, when the patent law system was instituted, a product might only require one patent.
According to Samsung, the complexity of modern electronic products demands a review of patent law and the way that damages are awarded in patent cases. Samsung’s response to Apple’s rejection of its appeal states that “if the legal precedent in this case stands, innovation could be diminished, competition could be stifled, and opportunistic lawsuits could have negative effects throughout the U.S. economy.”
Who do you think will win? How do you think patents should be handled for modern devices?