After more than a year of grueling litigation, the dust has settled between the tech giants for the time being, and it seems as if Apple has come out on top over Samsung.
After three days of deliberation, a Californian jury have made it clear who won the first round in what is expected to be a much longer bout in the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung. To see past IPilogue Articles covering Apple v Samsung, click here, here, here, here, and here. Last Friday, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages to be paid by Samsung for its willful actions in copying Apple designs. While there is a lot that could happen before Samsung is forced to pay any kind of award, law and business professionals alike are waiting with bated breath to see how the legal landscape will change as a result of this monumental decision.
Even with the prospect of such a large award looming over Samsung, the uncertainty that the award will be upheld is giving the South Korean corporation some time to regroup. Samsung is planning on filing a post-verdict motion to have the decision overturned by Judge Lucy Koh, who oversaw the litigation. While the motion may be a boon for Samsung should they be successful, Justice Koh is not expected to overturn the jury’s decision. In addition, the post-verdict motions period could make a bad situation worse; the jury found that some of the infringement by Samsung was willfuly done. According to the US Patent Act, a court can increase the damages up to three times the original amount assessed when this is found to be the case. Another consideration for both parties is an injunction hearing set for September 20th to see if Samsung’s infringing products will be banned for sale in the US.
An issue that is sure to be focused on by Samsung’s legal counsel is the speed with which the 9-person jury came back with a decision on a case of such complexity. Velvin Hogan, the foreman of the jury is an engineer with patents of his own and had informed a court representative that the group had reached a decision without the help of the instructions provided to them. While Hogan has said that the jury “took it very seriously” and that they “didn’t whiz through” it, the suspicion for bias or a rushed decision is strengthened by the fact that the jury had initially awarded damages for 2 Samsung products they had already decided did not actually infringe any Apple designs. While this was rectified by the court and reduced the award by roughly $2.5 million, Samsung may attempt to leverage this error in order to have the decision thrown out by the judge.
There were also some notable differences in results from the trial concerning the same issues that was decided earlier Friday in Samsung’s home territory of South Korea. In that case, the court ruled that Samsung devices had not copied the design of Apple devices but that each company had infringed patents of the other in various ways. While this was a minor victory for Samsung, some are concerned that the ruling concerning Samsung’s industry-standard patents will produce anti-trust and monopolization issues if rival companies ever attempt to sell their products in South Korea.
In the aftermath of the jury verdict, both companies issued responses as to their thoughts on the decision and their plans for the future. In many ways the statements of the two companies reflect the thoughts of legal theorists that are on either side of the ongoing discussion about patent law and how it is used in the tech industry today. Samsung’s comments refer to Apple’s verdict as a loss for consumers; that it will diminish innovation and provide consumers with fewer choices. It also mentions how “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners”. On the other side of the coin, Apple’s statement focused on the fact that the lawsuits were not just about patents and money but about valuing originality, innovation, and about sending the message that “stealing isn’t right”. While it is difficult to say that either company is completely correct, it is clear that in the current market of smartphones and tablet computers, a market worth roughly $219 billion, the patent is a powerful weapon in any corporation’s arsenal.
Adam Del Gobbo is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.