Samsung is appealing to the US Supreme Court to take on its legal fight with Apple over smartphone designs, where more than half a billion dollars is at stake.
The Korean electronics company is making a last-ditch effort to overturn a ruling that it says applies patent law too broadly and could impede competition in the technology market by awarding “excessive” damages to patent holders, reports Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco.
Samsung also argues that the verdict in 2012 that it copied the iPhone’s design and appearance could also encourage so-called patent trolls, who are accused of misusing the system to extract payments through litigation.
Earlier this month, Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548m in damages relating to the same three patents at issue in the case that is now being escalated to the Supreme Court.
Samsung said then that it reserved the right to reclaim the funds if the verdict is subsequently overturned.
But despite the substantial sums at stake, Samsung argues that its petition goes beyond mere self-interest. It said:
Samsung is escalating this case because it believes that the way the laws were interpreted is not in line with modern times. If the current legal precedent stands, it could diminish innovation, stifle competition, pave the way for design patent troll litigation and negatively impact the economy and consumers.
For its part, Apple says it designs its products to “delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy”.
Samsung asks two questions in its petition:
1. Where a design patent includes unprotected non-ornamental features, should a district court be required to limit that patent to its protected ornamental scope?
2. Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?”
If the Supreme Court does take the case, it will be first time in more than 100 years that it has addressed the issue of design patents. A ruling would then be likely by late 2016 or early 2017.
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