‘Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.’ Still Going Strong After Nearly Seven Years

‘Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.’ Still Going Strong After Nearly Seven Years

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It's been 6 and a half years of patent infringement suits, damages rulings, and retrials across 10 different countries  for Apple (AAPL) and Samsung, as they both try to claim ownership of the smartphone/tablet design.

Yes, they're fighting over who came up with the idea first, and there is no clear winner even after all this time.


How It Started

In April 2011, Apple filed a lawsuit in the U.S District Court of Northern California, claiming that their component supplier and direct competitor Samsung had copied the design for the original iPhone and iPad. The suit was based on the original design patents submitted by Apple in 2007, only days before the iPhone was first launched globally. 

Everything from the design, user interface, functionality, and 'style' were called into question. As the years went on the list of infringed products expanded; Apple claimed that Samsung's Nexus, Epic, and Galaxy phones/tablets were all based off of Apple's patents. A week later, Samsung had counter-sued Apple in three different countries (Korea, Japan, and Germany) claiming the same patent infringement against Apple. The lawsuits expanded to the UK and US only a few months later, and by 2012, injunctions were filed in Dutch, French, and Italian courts as each company tried to halt sales of the competitor's devices.


Trial, Retrial

On the US side, 2012 saw the verdict favor Apple, finding that Samsung had infringed on Apple's device design and trade patents. The jury awarded Apple $1BN in damages, a practically unprecedented win for any lawsuit. 

The ruling didn't last long however, as the presiding Judge Lucy H. Koh ordered a retrial after deciding that the jury had 'miscalculated' the amount awarded by a few hundred million.  Samsung during this time never denied infringement, but their attorney did clarify, "That doesn't mean Apple gets to come in here and ask for a windfall…for more that it is entitled." Samsung appealed the verdict of this case on questions surrounding the payout and possible jury misconduct; they had managed to reach a decision in less than 3 days. 

The verdict was taken into a damages-focused retrial in 2013, where Samsung tried to negotiate down the awarded amount for Apple. Samsung offered up a payout of $52MN, which surely came off as an insult to Apple and the huge amount it had received in the first trial. In November 2013, the jury awarded $290MN to Apple. Still however, the case was not over.


Where It Stands

On December 6, 2016 the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision of the lower courts with a 8-0 vote. The reversal required the case to be brought back to retrial as the Justices said the companies needed to accurately and legally define the "article of manufacture" or what exactly is being infringed on. 

Based on this decision, District Judge Koh opened a second retrial on Sunday for the awarded monetary verdict based on SCOTUS' opinions. Apple has not made a comment regarding the new trial, but Samsung released the below statement yesterday: 

"We welcome to [sic] District Court's decision for a new trial. This is a historic opportunity to determine how the U.S Supreme Court's guidance on design patent damages will be implemented in our case and future cases." 

That it is Samsung. As technology rapidly innovates and progresses forward, these cases will act as precedent for many other technology-focused patent lawsuits; if the trials ever manage to reach a conclusion. 



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