Apple Vs. Samsung: The Legal War

January 29, 2014
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Like an endless Hatfield and McCoy’s war, Apple and Samsung are bound and determined to keep their war of litigation going. Yet another California court clash over smartphone patents begins again in the first week of March. This is happening because, in a different courtroom, another jury reconsidered a decision to award nearly US$1bn in damages to the American iPhone company last year. The latter case is up for grabs (and endless appeals), being watched carefully all over the world. Driven, dour and determined, Samsung were committed to litigating themselves a substantial reduction in the amount levied after Apple’s landmark patent victory against its arch rival in August 2012. Even President Obama has referred to it as “the most important piece of litigation going on right now,” according to the Washington Post.

Samsung’s position was that errors were perpetrated by a San Jose jury over its weeks of deliberations, which saw Apple clearly emerge as victors in consideration of nearly every count in its case against its largest competitor in the smartphone business, according to Google News. No one is certain as to what prompted Judge Lucy Koh to stick her neck out and summarily order a retrial.  At any rate, Judge Koh decided that a total of $450m worth of the original $1.05bn jury award was “vacated.” So Koh called together a brand-new jury, asking it to reconsider  ‘appropriate damages’ over at least a dozen Samsung devices determined to have infringed upon at least five Apple patents.

Judge Lucy Koh

Keeping in mind that the issue of infringement itself was not being reconsidered in the retrial, Judge Koh announced in March, 2013, that, inexplicably, the original jury had not followed her instructions on how to calculate damages, once its members decided Samsung were indeed guilty of copying and appropriating Apple’s iPhone and iPad. “Certain other elements,” she said, “without being any more specific, turned out to be based on incorrect dates stated as to when the infringement actually took place and ceased.”

The content of much of the information generated in this retrial was highly technical, very much dependent on the jury’s determination of the timeframe of Samsung’s infringement, which in turn determined just how much it had to pay in damages. What Apple wanted was to force Samsung to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, their ultimate objective to force the Korean corporation to cut out its predilection for industrial espionage and website piracy. Once a new jury was selected, Apple’s legal eagles argued they were entitled to royalties from the infringing devices sold by Samsung. They also demanded more of Samsung’s massive profits, which they felt were their own lost income. Considering the list of expert witnesses numbered into the thirties, including Apple‘s executive chief of marketing, Phil Schiller, Judge Koh managed to keep the number down to the minimum by disallowing anything resembling ‘propaganda’ or ‘repetition.’

Samsung successfully argued that the aforesaid damages it owed must be substantially lower than any initial award because Apple never provided proper notice of infringement until 2011, rather than in 2010 which Apple initially claimed, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. None of the devices in question, they insisted, are still on sale and so could no longer be infringing on Apple‘s current sales in the US because subsequent Samsung smartphones and tablets were designed ‘around’ such patents.

On November 21, 2013, the jury awarded a new figure of US$290m. There will now be a new set of appeals and Judge Koh is expected to make a number of announcements before late April 2014. Doubtless, appeals are bound to drag on for several more years. Whatever the verdict in the new case, Samsung will probably begin its appeal to the Federal Circuit court next summer. Should the case go to the Supreme Court, its final decision would likely come in mid-2017.

Keeping in mind last year’s blockbuster verdict, there seems to have been no cessation in the many intellectual property battles between technology groups. The war over intellectual property rights will go on into perpetuity.

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