DoJ weighs in on Apple, Samsung patent litigation

By Carrie Salls | Jun 28, 2016

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice believes the U.S. Supreme Court should turn a long-standing patent infringement battle waging between Samsung Electronics Co. LTD and Apple Inc. back over to a trial court for a ruling on whether a new trial should be held regarding the calculation of damages.?

The Department of Justice did not side with either party in the amicus brief filed June 8.

However, the department said it was not clear from previous court documents whether Samsung was able to successfully demonstrate that damages should only be calculated for patents related to individual parts of Apple’s iPhone products, namely the design of the phone’s front face, bezel and icons grid, or whether the damages should instead be calculated for infringement related to the design of the entire phone.

“The damages provision of the statute is relatively clear and is more properly one for Congress,” Peter S. Menell, a Berkeley Law professor and co-founder and director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, told the Northern California Record.

In 2012, Apple was awarded $930 million in damages in its case against Samsung. The latter’s subsequent attempt to reduce the amount it owed resulted in a May 2015 ruling in which the appeals court cut Samsung’s liability to $548 million. However, in the same ruling, the appeals court agreed that Samsung had in fact infringed on Apple’s patents, particularly in connection with the design of the individual components that were the discussed in the department’s amicus brief.

Following the 2015 appeals court ruling, Samsung continued its fight against what it deemed to be excessive damages, petitioning the Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the part of the circuit court order dealing with the design patents. The Supreme Court agreed in March to consider whether a company found guilty of patent infringement should be ordered to compensate for lost profits on a complete product in light of infringement of patents that only make up part of the product in question.

Apple’s patent infringement claims against Samsung argue that the damages awarded should take into account sales of the iPhone, not just the amount lost in connection with the use of separate components of the phone’s design.

“Bottom line: The Supreme Court granted certiorari on the wrong issue,” Menell said. “It should have reviewed the functionality defense.”

This defense, in essence, excludes functional features from the design patents in favor of aesthetic or ornamental features that have no bearing on the product’s ability to function.

In an official statement issued through a spokesman, Samsung told the Northern California Record that it has received “overwhelming support” from leading patent experts, concerned companies and the U.S. government in its efforts to have the ruling in favor of Apple overturned.

“If left uncorrected, the appeals court’s ruling could lead to diminished innovation, pave the way for design troll patent litigation and negatively impact the economy and consumers,” Samsung said.

In early June, Samsung also petitioned the Supreme Court to review a February circuit court ruling related to separate litigation in which Apple alleged infringement of five U.S. patents that it owns. In that case, Apple was awarded $119.63 million in damages and royalties for infringement of three of the patents. A jury found that Samsung had not infringed on the other two patents.

The jury also found that Apple had infringed on one of two patents at issue in a Samsung countersuit. Samsung was awarded $158,400 in damages as a result of that infringement.

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Organizations in this Story

Apple Inc. Samsung Electronics U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Supreme Court

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