Apple vs. Samsung: Court Overturns $120 Million Apple Patent Victory

If you think it seems like Apple and Samsung have been battling over intellectual property for a long time, you’d be right. Now in its fifth year, the competitive issues involving the patents in question have largely been rectified and the market has moved on to newer, shinier tech, but the court cases involving those patents rage on.

Last month, an appeals court ruling invalidated Apple patents pertaining to its slide-to-unlock, autocorrect, and interactive features. In addition, it threw out a lower court ruling that awarded Apple nearly $120 million in damages, but upheld a $158,000 ruling in favor of Samsung for Apple’s infringement of a patent related to media organization.

Samsung’s argument was that these features were “obvious” and thereby not patentable, while Apple contended that evidence of “secondary considerations,” including copying by others, industry praise, long-felt need, and commercial success of its products, favored a determination of non-obviousness.

“’Secondary Considerations’ is an important, but overlooked aspect the obviousness doctrine,” explains Scott Kanalakis, intellectual property lawyer. “Though unsuccessful for Apple in this instance, it’s important that patent owners develop and maintain strong evidence (e.g., documents, witnesses) in these areas of secondary considerations. In particular, evidence should link features of products to your patents and not appear self-serving.”

The ruling also calls into question the patentability of other obvious tech features. In July, several industry giants, including Google, Facebook and eBay, filed a brief with the Federal Circuit Court in support of Samsung, fearing an Apple win would unleash a new crop of patent lawsuits that would cripple the industry and adversely affect the development of new technologies.

So what’s next for these technological Hatfields and McCoys?

Since the 2012 landmark ruling that awarded Apple $1 billion in damages, that sum had been almost halved through appeals, rulings and trials. In a final effort to avoid paying these damages, which total $548 million, Samsung submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court, which was granted this week.

“The Supreme Court’s review will not address the overall scope of design patent protection,” explains Kanalakis. “But, more narrowly, the extent of profits that an infringer may be liable for in view of a design patent’s application to only a component of a product – which may further limit Samsung’s damages.”

Even with a decision handed down from the Supreme Court, don’t expect a quick resolution. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s review, the Northern District of California has decided to stay a retrial – which originally awarded Apple $1 billion in damages.


About Boyle Fredrickson

Established in 1999, Boyle Fredrickson has grown to become Wisconsin’s largest intellectual property law firm. You’ve got ideas, we protect them.

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