In 2011, Apple sued Samsung for $399 million in damages for “infringing” on the patented design of the iPhone. However, the Supreme Court has just reversed the decision, though it seems Apple will return to the U.S. Court of Appeals to have what it perceives to be its share of the profits returned to them.
The Supreme Court’s decision was unanimous in favor of Samsung, ruling that infringement can only be declared if it is on one part of the device, not the entire phone as a whole.
But over 100 designers from Apple feel that they are entitled to profits Samsung has earned because it has infringed on their unique design. They cited a 1949 study stating that 99% of Americans could identify a Coca-Cola bottle from its shape alone, meaning that the public would associate Samsung’s phones with their design.
Originally, Samsung faced $1 billion in penalties, which was later reduced.
In 2012, it was ruled that because it appeared Samsung infringed on the patent of three of Apple’s iPhone designs, the tech giant was to be awarded all of the money they had profited.
“The term ‘article of manufacture’ is broad enough to embrace both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product whether sold separately or not.”
This victory, however, doesn’t mean the battle is over. As stated above, it is likely Apple will continue to seek damages for the supposed infringement. The Supreme Court said of the case:
“Absent adequate briefing by the parties, this Court declines to resolve whether the relevant article of manufacture for each design patent at issue here is the smartphone or a particular smartphone component. Doing so is not necessary to resolve the question presented, and the Federal Circuit may address any remaining issues on remand.”
Judges predict that deciding how much of the profits Samsung will owe to Apple will be an incredibly difficult task. In some cases, it is obvious where copyright or patent infringement has occurred, especially with iconic items. However, in this case, Apple is not necessarily suing for the overall design, but for a small selection of its parts, making it difficult to deduce the exact damages.
It should also be noted that the products in question are no longer on the market, making the case even more complex.