Media Moves

Coverage: Apple and Samsung are ending their patent fight

June 28, 2018

Posted by Chris Roush

Apple and Samsung have finally put an end to their long-running patent battle whose central question was whether Samsung copied the iPhone.

Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge had the news:

The patent battle started in 2011 and initially resulted in a $1 billion ruling in Apple’s favor. But it didn’t end there. A series of appeals pushed the dispute to the Supreme Court and back, as the companies continually rehashed which patents were infringed and, more recently, exactly how much Samsung owes Apple because of the infringement.

The case revolved around a number of design and utility patents for basic functions of a smartphone, like tap to zoom and the home screen app grid. But while the fight was hashed out using specific patents, the battle was ultimately about whether Samsung copied Apple in the early days of smartphones to gain an edge. The jury decided that, in many ways, it had.

Most recently, the verdict had been whittled down to $539 million for Apple. Samsung filed to appeal that earlier this month. But the two companies were able to reach an agreement before it could be litigated again.

Apple declined to give terms of the settlement and pointed to a statement it made in May, when the case was last ruled on.

Hayley Tsukayama of The Washington Post reported that the two companies had also filed suits in Germany and Japan:

The legal dispute was major news in 2011 when Apple first accused Samsung of copying its designs to gain customers, escalating the competitive rancor between the two companies into open war. The initial case was closely watched as a clash of titans, and also as a yardstick to determine the standard for which companies can sue each other for similar looking designs. In addition to a 2011 U.S. patent case, Apple and Samsung also filed retailiatory suits against each other in other countries, including Germany and Japan.

Apple initially received a $1 billion award from jurors in a 2011 case, after finding that Samsung had infringed on Apple’s patented designs of features, such as the layout of the home screen. That, in turn, spurred appeals and countersuits. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which reduced Samsung’s payment and threw the case back to a lower court.

Since Apple and Samsung started their legal battle, the smartphone world has changed dramatically, minimizing some of the conflict between the companies. While the top two smartphone makers in the world are still highly competitive, the dynamics between them have shifted somewhat. Apple remains focused on premium phones and is the largest company in the world. But Samsung, once considered a “fast follower” company that quickly adopted other’s smartphone trends, has focused more on upscale, original design and is credited with leading the smartphone industry trend toward larger phones.

Stephen Nellis of Reuters wrote that there was no clear winner in the dispute:

After a loss at trial, Samsung appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2016, the court sided unanimously with Samsung’s argument that a patent violator does not have to hand over the entire profit it made from stolen designs if those designs covered only certain portions of a product but not the entire object.

But when the case went back to lower court for trial this year, the jury sided with Apple’s argument that, in this specific case, Samsung’s profits were attributable to the design elements that violated Apple’s patents.

Michael Risch, a professor of patent law at Villanova University, said that because of the recent verdict the settlement likely called for Samsung to make an additional payment to Apple.

But he said there was no clear winner in the dispute, which involved hefty legal fees for both companies. While Apple scored a major public relations victory with an initial $1 billion verdict in 2012, Samsung also obtained rulings in its favor and avoided an injunction that would have blocked it from selling phones in the U.S. market, Risch said.

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