Apple and Samsung took their never-ending patents dispute dating all the way back to a 2012 case to the U.S. Supreme Court today, in order to argue how much of a $399 million patent infringement award Samsung must pay to Apple. Current law says an award can be collected on the entire profits of an infringing device, which in this case, is the $399 million Samsung paid Apple late last year.
In court today, Samsung argued that Apple was awarded damages on the profit of the entire phone, not just the profits on the parts that infringed Apple’s patents. According to The Verge, the judges expressed skepticism with the argument that because a smartphone is filled with thousands of patented components, a design patent should result in awards amounting to a fraction of the total profits of the phone.
“How do we announce the right test for that?” asked Justice Sotomayor. The design of the phone “might drive the sale.” An iconic design for an automobile might come to a designer as “a stroke of genius” in just a few days said Justice Kennedy, while the rest of the car could take hundreds of days to design. “Then it seems to me that it is quite unfair to give three days’ profit” to someone whose design was infringed when that design is so significant to the overall product.
As Samsung argued in its brief that infringement of a patented cupholder design should not result in an award of the total profit on a car, Apple agreed that profits could be awarded solely on a component of the product, but said that in this case, the “article of manufacturing” was the entire phone.
“The infringement wasn’t found on the whole phone. It asserted three narrow patents,” explained Kathleen Sullivan, Samsung’s attorney, in a press conference on the steps of the Supreme Court. “The patent doesn’t apply to the internals of the phone, so Apple doesn’t deserve profits on all of Samsung’s phone.” When asked how, under its argument, a single narrowly tailored design patent can have any financial value to a complex phone with 250,000 patented features, Sullivan appeared to criticize the entire concept of design patents.
A ruling is expected before the end of the Court’s term in June 2017. You can read more about the arguments thrown at each by the two tech giants at this link.