The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday for Samsung in the company’s dispute with Apple for a patent on the iPhone design. Samsung Electronics Co. had to pay $399 million to Apple Inc. because several of the South Korean giant tech smartphones were copying the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and colorful grids of icons that feature programs and apps.
The high court agreed to hear the case to clarify whether Samsung had to pay all of its profits selling regarding the infringing products since it did not copy all of the iPhone design, just elements of it. Those damages reach $399 million that were originally part of a $930 million award claimed by Apple.
A federal appeal court upheld the $399 million, but the decision was set aside by the higher court in an 8-0 decision Tuesday.
Justices involved in the case said that the design features of the smartphones, including their rectangular shape, are just a component of the product and not the entire product. Thus, Samsung should not pay all of the smartphones’ profits to Apple. The court agreed the South Korean company copyçied part of the design but made it clear that the giant tech has to pay a lesser amount for its crime.
The Higher Court did not establish the proper amount. The justices decided to send the case back to an appeals court to rule how much the copied design contributed to Samsung’s profits.
Samsung vs. Apple
A legal dispute to determined what should be considered “article of manufacture” has Samsung and Apple fighting over five years
The patent dispute between the tech giants is the first one to be heard at the Supreme Court in more than 120 years. The case reached the higher court due to lack of precise definitions of patent design.
Samsung vs. Apple case reached the Supreme Court because of the different interpretations the U.S. patent law has. The dispute resided on whether to “article of manufacture” is the finished product on its entirety or if it defines a component in a product.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the unanimous court, said that the patent law is clear. The term “article of manufacture is broad enough to encompass both a product sold to a consumer as well as a component of that product,” she wrote.
In court, Samsung, Apple, and the U.S. government agreed that the term could mean an element, Reuters reports.
The trials on the subject began in 2011 when Apple accused Samsung of stealing its technology and appearance. After a trial in 2012, Samsung was found guilty of infringing Cupertino, California-based Apple’s iPhone patents and copying its design.
Apple was awarded nearly $930 in damages, but in 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld the infringement verdict saying the iPhone’s appearance could not be protected by trademarks. The 2015 decision cut Samsung’s debt to Apple by $382 million. Now, a lower court will rule the exact amount Samsung has to award Apple.