Friday, October 20, 2017 | Updated at 8:18 AM ET


Apple vs Samsung: The Case for Patent Design Infringement

First Posted: Oct 17, 2016 08:43 AM EDT
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The retrial of Apple vs Samsung has started, in an attempt by all parties to determine how much of the total profits should be awarded over patent design infringement.

The Apple vs Samsung fight is back! Last Tuesday, October 11, Apple and Samsung appeared before the US Supreme Court to argue over their patent infringement case. This is a case with millions, even billions of dollars at stake, and is in so much scrutiny because of how the final decision can affect the future of technology and design.

The skirmish between the two giant tech companies began way back in 2010. As Digital Trends has recreated in their Apple-Samsung timeline, Apple had already secured a previous victory back in August 2012, with a US jury awarding over $1 billion in damages in favor of Apple. However, Samsung ultimately agreed to pay only $548 million to Apple back in December 2015.

This time around, the issue is no longer about whether Samsung had copied Apple's designs, as that seems to be already conceded by Samsung. The issue now is that Samsung (and other tech companies siding with them), now wants to change how much damages one company that copies another's design has to pay.

As reported by CNET, Samsung is arguing that the damages incurred from infringing on design patents should not come from the total profits, since a smartphone is composed of multiple patented components. Apple, meanwhile, is arguing that they are for protecting new products and designs, and that the product's design is one factor that motivates the buyers in choosing the smartphone.

As expected, the design and fashion industry (like Calvin Klein and Alexander Wang) is siding with Apple, while tech companies like Dell, Google and HP are supporting Samsung. The Justice Department, while taking care not to side with either parties, believes patent holders should get full profits from the sale of a "relevant article of manufacture," but wants to clarify what the "relevant article of manufacture" is.

The Supreme Court justices, meanwhile, seemed at a loss as to how to separate the value of the design from the whole product. They had to use the analogy of a Volkswagon Beetle to try to put in perspective how a unique design could affect a buyer's decision. Should Samsung win in this case, other design patent cases would be affected, and would mean lower damages for patent infringement.

With so much at stake, the whole community is waiting for the final ruling of this Apple vs Samsung case, which will hopefully come in the first quarter of 2017.

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