In an interesting development to the long running patent dispute between Samsung and Apple, the two companies have again appeared in the US Supreme Court, this time to hear an appeal from Samsung against the damages awarded to Apple back in 2012. The damages (amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars) were awarded for infringement of a number of Apple’s design patents for its iPhone by some of Samsung’s smartphones.
As I predicted over two years ago, the Samsung-Apple patent litigation rumbles on and this Supreme Court case is merely the latest in a sequence of court battles between these technology giants over their intellectual property in an effort to gain an upper hand in the vast and valuable smartphone market.
However, what is interesting in the current Supreme Court appeal is that over 100 industry designers, including famous names such as Sir Paul Smith, Calvin Klein, Sir Terence Conran and Lord Norman Foster, have come out in support of Apple in the filing of an amicus brief. The amicus brief contends that Apple’s designs are central to their ability to sell their products and realise profits, and it is these designs that help companies distinguish their products from each other.
In support of Samsung, the Internet Association, Facebook and Google (among others) have argued that the scope of protection offered by design patents needs to be well defined such that it does not open the flood gates to companies (e.g. non-practising entities) looking to make money by suing others over their design patents.
This case highlights the tricky balance lawmakers and courts need to strike between giving innovators protection for legitimate developments they make for their products and the rights of third parties to offer competitive products, albeit that are sufficiently different from those of the rights holders.