Retrial Ordered On iPhone Design Patent Infringement Case

A judge in the United States has ordered that a new trial be held with a view to determining how much Apple should be paid by Samsung for having copied the iPhone’s design. The order was issued by Lucy Koh, a U.S. District Judge, in San Jose, California. This comes after an award granted to Apple totaling $399 million was set aside by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The three patents belonging to Apple that Samsung is said to have infringed on covered the iPhone’s design elements including the rounded corners, the black rectangular front display as well as the colorful icons representing apps and programs. For Apple the order by the U.S. Judge is a setback as the tech giant had deemed a retrial unnecessary while arguing that the award granted to it should have been confirmed.

Precedent-setting

The case which has lasted for close to seven years has been closely followed in Silicon Valley. Tech firms such as Google and Facebook have argued that a win by Apple would give encouragement to design patents owners to file lawsuits demanding huge amounts on products which contain numerous features, all of which are expensive to develop.

The award of $399 million granted to Apple represented the profit that Samsung had made by selling smartphones which had infringed on the design of the iPhone. Samsung has stated that it deserves to be reimbursed that money in the event that it prevails in the litigation. In December 2015 Samsung had made a payment of $548 million.

Article of manufacture

The current legal dispute is centered on the question of whether the ‘article of manufacture’ or product for which the South Korean conglomerate owed damages included only the parts which infringed on the patents belonging to Apple or the entire smartphone. In the Supreme Court ruling Justice Sonia Sotomayor did not decide the question but wrote that an ‘article of manufacture’ is a term that is broad enough and could thus refer not just to the product that a consumer purchases but components of that particular product.

In the order by Lucy Koh, the U.S. District Judge argued that the instructions given by the jury during the 2012 trial were inaccurate with regards to how the law on the issue had been stated. Koh argued that the South Korean conglomerate may have suffered prejudice if the jurors were not allowed to consider whether the infringement covered components of the ‘article of manufacture’.

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