On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court was left struggling due to the big-money, fierce Samsung-Apple patent fight. The court was unable to find a solution and the justices were left puzzling how to determine the value of the individual design elements that make up a product as complex as the iPhone. The eight justices of the U.S. Supreme Court listened to arguments in Samsung’s attempt to get back the $399 million it had paid Apple in December of the $548 million that had been ordered by a jury verdict in 2012. Samsung had been found guilty of infringing Apple’s patents for the iPhone and for copying the distinctive appearance in making the Galaxy devices and various others that compete with it.
The penalty worth $399 had been specifically imposed due to the South Korean giant’s violation of three patents of Apple Inc. on the design of the bezel, rounded-corner front face and the colorful grid of icons representing applications and programs on the iPhone. While some of the justices expressed their willingness to reduce the potentially huge penalties that had been levied for ripping off a patented design, there were some who were skeptic of how juries could practically figure out the importance of a specific design element in order to calculate the right amount of damages.
A number of justices struggled on how they would come up with a test that would aid lower juries and courts to determine the damages of design patents. Justice Elena Kagen used the unique automobile body contour of the Volkswagen Beetle as an example and said it would be difficult for a jury to calculate the damages to award based on a theoretical infringement of the shape, especially when that element was the main factor driving customers to buy the product. Smartphones such as the Galaxy devices of Samsung Electronics and the iPhone of Cupertino, California-based Apple have become an essential part of everyday lives of people all over the world.
Samsung holds the top spot in smartphone making race and Apple is its toughest competitor. The case’s hearing was held on the same day Samsung announced it was scrapping off its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reports of the phone catching fire had surfaced. The device was supposed to compete with Apple’s latest iPhone for supremacy in the smartphone market. Samsung has argued that it shouldn’t have to turn over its profits on phones that infringed the design patents of the iPhone. The company said that they only contributed marginally to a complex product that comprises of a large number of patented features.
Chief Justice John Roberts said that the damages awarded shouldn’t be based on the whole price of the smartphone as the patented designs were only of the outer casing of the phone instead of the inner workings. Kathleen Sullivan, Samsung’s attorney said that the firm was hoping the Supreme court would give a fair reading to the statute as it would be a victory for business and customers as well.