Recent developments in the Apple-Samsung dispute over iPhone patents

By Nicole Daniel

On 22 March 2016, it emerged that the final Apple-Samsung trial is likely to be delayed for more than a year as a reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision granting Samsung’s request to review $ 399 million in design patent damages resulting from the 2012 jury verdict in the first Apple-Samsung trial.

Following the trial in August 2012 Apple was awarded damages of $ 1.05 billion as it was held that Samsung’s smartphones infringed three design patents and three software patents belonging to Apple. Due to a damages retrial in 2013 the damages were then pared to approximately $ 930 million, including $ 399 million for infringement of design patents. In May 2015 the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the verdict on design patents but tossed out other damages. This decision therefore necessitated a second damages retrial which was originally scheduled to start on 28 March 2016.

In December 2015, Samsung asked the Supreme Court to review the case arguing that it was inappropriate to award to a patent-holder the infringer’s entire profits from the sale of an item that is highly complex. That way design patents are rewarded far beyond the value of the inventive contribution.

The Supreme Court granted Samsung’s request but limited its inquiry to a single issue, namely whether the award of the infringer’s profits should be limited to the infringed components only in a case where the design patent applied only to a component of a product and not to the whole product.

It remains to be seen how the Supreme Court will decide on this important issue.