It comes as no surprise that the biggest names in commercial technology find themselves perpetually embroiled in lawsuits, but one seemingly endless legal row between Apple and Samsung finally came to a close today, with the iPhone maker winning $539 million in damages from its South Korean competitor.
A 2011 trial found Samsung guilty of infringing on a total of five Apple smartphone patents – three design patents entailing rounded corners, the border around the front of the chassis, and the grid of icons on the home screen, as well as two utility patents that define the general working of a device and its several use-cases.
What the jury had to determine was whether the company should pay damages based on sales of complete units or only the components that were deemed to infringe upon Apple’s design. Facing a hefty fine of $1.05 billion in a 2012 suit, Samsung eventually agreed to pay a reduced sum of $399 million. The jury remained confused over how the damages should be calculated, however, and that led to the amount being revisited in the Supreme Court under U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in 2016.
Two years of legal proceedings later, both sides presented their closing arguments this past Friday, with Apple maintaining that it is owed a billion in damages while Samsung sought a lenient punishment of $28 million.
The final ruling on Thursday charged the latter with handing over an additional $140 million, which, combined with the $399 million the company has already paid, brings the total damages to the aforementioned $539 million.
The sum might be half of what Apple’s lawyers had been demanding, but in the words of law professor Michael Risch from the Villanova University School of Law in Pennsylvania, it is a “big win” for the Cupertino giant.
“Apple’s upside should have been capped at what it won before,” he said. “Beating that number at trial is a huge victory given that the Supreme Court has theoretically ruled against it.”
That also makes it a “huge loss” for Samsung, “and shows the risk it took by continuing to fight,” he said. “Samsung’s luck with the jury ran out this time, and Apple received a bigger proportion of what it sought.”
While these damages account for only two weeks of Samsung’s profits from its mobile division, but as Samsung has implied and Apple has explicitly said in the past, this seven-year spat has never just been about the money, with the Galaxy manufacturer claiming to protect “creativity and fair competition” while its American counterpart sought to stand by the “value of design.”
Here’s Apple statement after today’s win over Samsung:
“it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design” … “We’re grateful to the jury for their service and pleased they agree that Samsung should pay for copying our products.”
It “has always been about more than money.”
“We believe deeply in the value of design, and our teams work tirelessly to create innovative products that delight our customers,” the company said.
Samsung came out with the following statement:
“Today’s decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages,” Samsung said in a statement after the verdict. “We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers.”
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