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Supreme Court Rules for Samsung in Major Patent and Copyright Infringement Case

smart-phone-lawsuit.jpgThe Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in favor of Samsung in their dispute with Apple. The case involves allegations of both patent and copyright infringement. This decision, which was unanimous (8-0) overturns a lower court ruling that had awarded Apple more than $390 million in damages. At this stage, the case will now go back down to a Washington D.C. federal appeals court for reconsideration on the issue of damages.

Understanding the Background of the Dispute

Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, accused Samsung, the South Korean tech company, of patent and copyright infringement. Specifically, Apple's lawsuit alleged that Samsung knowingly and unlawfully copied key elements of their smartphone. To be sure, industry observers and the courts have consistently ruled in favor of Apple on this issue. Indeed, the Supreme Court also agrees that Samsung had committed patent and copyright infringement. However, there has been a vigorous dispute over the appropriate level of damages in this case.

The allegation was never that Samsung copied Apple's entire smartphone design. Instead, Samsung was only accused of unlawfully copying certain key elements and features of the phone. Of course, the smartphone has been a massively successful product that has produced huge profits for many different companies, including both Apple and Samsung. As such, the potential damages to be awarded are substantial. The lower court was willing to award Apple damages that accounted for the full value of Samsung's product line. However, the Supreme Court took a far more narrow view on damages.

Why the Supreme Court Ruled for Samsung

In its view of United States patent law, the Supreme Court determined that the appropriate plain reading of the statute provides for more narrow damages in this type of case. Specifically, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the unanimous majority opinion, noted that when it came to products involving multiple components, the law should be interpreted as referring to each individual component involved in the product as a distinct entity.

This is an extremely important clarification because plaintiffs in these cases are entitled to the 'total profits' made by the infringing party. Of course, the total profits that Samsung made for any individual design component on their phone is far smaller than the total amount of profits they have made on the entire product line. Now, the lower appeals court will need to reconsider the case and determine the appropriate level of damages based on the criteria put forth by the Supreme Court.

Contact Our Office Today

At Diemer, Whitman & Cardosi, LLP, we have extensive experience handling copyright law disputes. If your company is involved in copyright litigation, please contact our passionate San Jose copyright law attorneys to schedule your free initial case evaluation. We proudly represent individuals and businesses throughout Northern California, including in Fremont, Campbell, Milpitas, and Santa Cruz.

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/35/289

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-777_7lho.pdf

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