Apple vs. Samsung to climb back into rounded rectangle of justice

Retrial over amount of patent-pinch damages okayed by Californian judge


Samsung has won a retrial to reconsider damages in its patent suit against Apple.

Chaebol-versus-Cupertino was revived courtesy of Judge Lucy Koh in the Northern District of California, who agreed with Samsung that it's worth revisiting the 2012 decision that handed Apple US$399 million. Samsung's also seen other decisions compelling to pay over half a billion in total damages.

Ever since Samsung wrote those cheques, it has been trying to flip the verdict. After losing in various jurisdictions, it fronted the Supreme Court in 2016.

Its argument was that the original case applied patent too widely: given a smartphone might contain a quarter of a million patented technologies, Samsung argued, damages applying to the whole profits from a device were excessive when only a handful of infringements occurred.

The Supreme Court decided in favour of the South Korean company in December 2016, sending the case back down the line, leading to this week's decision [PDF] by Judge Koh.

She writes that “the Court finds that the jury instructions given at trial did not accurately reflect the law and that the instructions prejudiced Samsung by precluding the jury from considering whether the relevant article of manufacture for the purpose of §289 was something other than the entire phone.”

That reasoning means Judge Koh has adopted the position put forward last year in an amicus brief from the Department of Justice, which proposed a four-part test for such cases:

  • The scope of the design:
  • The extent to which the design determines the overall appearance of the product;
  • Other components in the device; and
  • The extent to which those other components can be separated.

Submissions for the retrial are set for December, and the jury trial is currently scheduled to start in May 2018. ®


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