US Supreme Court slashes Samsung's patent payout to Apple

Never-ending phone design suit takes yet another turn – $400m check to be reduced

Update Samsung has claimed a Supreme Court victory that will see its $400m patent damages bill to Apple significantly reduced.

The highest court in America ruled that the damages were incorrectly calculated and ordered a Californian district court to take another look at the case to calculate a smaller bill for the South Korean electronics giant.

The decision is the latest turn in a seemingly endless infringement war Apple and Samsung have waged since 2011 over allegations that each side's iOS and Android devices copied the other.

At issue this time was the interpretation of "article of manufacture" rules for calculating the patent infringement damages Samsung needs to pay Apple for using rounded corners on a number of its handsets and tablets.

The earlier court decisions had based the $400m bill on Samsung's total revenues for the infringing products, while Samsung has contended that because it was only the displays on the phones that were found to infringe Apple patents and not the entire device, the payout should only be a portion of the total sales.

The Supreme Court unanimously sided with Samsung, explaining in its decision [PDF] that the court could, in fact, separate the infringing component from the handset itself when calculating the damages.

"The term 'article of manufacture' is broad enough to encompass both a product sold to a consumer as well as a component of that product," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"A component of a product, no less than the product itself, is a thing made by hand or machine. That a component may be integrated into a larger product, in other words, does not put it outside the category of articles of manufacture."

The Supreme Court decision will mean yet another court date for the two sides, as the case has now been remanded back to the district court to decide a new amount of damages. ®

Updated to add

"The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision today is a victory for Samsung and for all those who promote creativity, innovation and fair competition in the marketplace," Samsung said in a statement to The Register.

"We thank our supporters from the world's leading technology companies, the 50 intellectual property professors, and the many public policy groups who stood with us as we fought for a legal environment that fairly rewards invention and fosters innovation."

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