Bin Apple's $500m patent judgment, US DoJ tells Supreme Court

Surprise brief in long-running Samsung saga

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has recommended that the half-billion-dollar judgment awarded to Apple for iPhone patent infringement be thrown out.

In an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court, the DoJ does not formally take sides but does recommend that a federal appeal court ruling that decided Samsung had illegally copied the iPhone's rounded corners and icon-grid should be overturned.

Unsurprisingly, the recommendation was met with some delight by the South Korean electronics giant, which told Reuters it welcomed the "overwhelming support" it had received and claimed that the judgment against it "could lead to diminished innovation, pave the way for design troll patent litigation and negatively impact the economy and consumers."

Apple, characteristically, has refused to comment.

This legal review – which the Supreme Court will pick up in its next session (case 15-777) – is just the latest in a long-running saga between the two companies.

Samsung was sued back in 2011 and was initially told – in 2012 – to pay Apple $930m for its infringements. It appealed, and the Washington DC federal appeals court threw out part of that verdict, reducing the penalty down to $548m – in 2015.

Samsung agreed to pay that amount but also appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the penalty had been calculated unfairly. It argued that it had only infringed a small part of the overall phone and so should only have to pay a fraction of the money it had made from its phone, rather than all the proceeds it has brought in. It also asked the court to look at the very issue of design patents.

The Supreme Court said it would consider the amount of damages but not dig into the actual question of design patents (laws which were developed in the 19th century but on which billions of dollars of commerce are reliant).

As part of that Supreme Court process, the DoJ yesterday posted its amicus curiae brief and said it was unclear if Samsung had produced sufficient evidence to support its fraction argument. But it also said that the court should send the case back to the trial court to determine whether there needed to be a new trial on that specific issue.

And so the 21st century's Jarndyce versus Jarndyce case continues. ®

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