On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Samsung in its smartphone patent battle with Apple Inc., which involves considerable sums of money. A ruling made by the appeals court was also thrown out, which stated that a $399 million penalty had to be paid by the South Korean company to its US rival for copying important iPhone designs. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the 8-0 ruling and it held that the violator of a patent doesn’t have to hand over its entire profits earned from the sale of products made from stolen designs, if only certain components are covered by the designs and not the whole thing.
The case was sent back to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington by the justices for determining the amount that Samsung should pay. However, a road map wasn’t provided to lower courts or juries on how to deal with any similar disputes that may arise in the future. A jury verdict in 2012 had been made in favor of Apple, which dictated that Samsung had to pay penalties worth $930 million to its rival for infringing the iPhone patents of the firm and for copying the distinctive appearance of their device in making their own Galaxy devices. The penalty had later been reduced by $382 million.
Samsung used the products that mimicked the design of the iPhone to become the top smartphone maker in the world. The ruling on Tuesday is just another one in the ferocious legal battle between the two smartphone makers in the world. This battle begin in 2011 when Samsung was sued by the iPhone maker for trademark and patent infringement. In recent years, it is one of the most closely watched patent infringement cases to be brought in US courts. The legal dispute arose on the use of the term ‘article of manufacture’.
The US patent law uses this term for calculating damages when design patents are infringed and the controversy arose when deciding whether it refers to a finished product or simply a component in a detailed and complex product. Apple, Samsung and the US government had all agreed in court papers that the term could be used for referring to just one component. However, the Supreme Court was urged by Apple Inc. to affirm the ruling of the appeals court because no evidence had been provided by Samsung to prove that the article of manufacture was not the entire smartphones it sold.
Meanwhile, the South Korean smartphone giant claimed that it didn’t need to present any such evidence. Writing for the unanimous court, Sotomayor said that the law is clear in this situation. The term ‘article of manufacture’ encompasses a component of a product as well as a product sold to a customer. Nonetheless, the justices refused to come up with a test for lower courts and juries to decide the relevant article of manufacture in a specific case, which is a difficult task in cases that involve high technology devices.