In the latest news in the patent case that feels like it will never end, a number of tech giants have taken Samsung’s side in its appeal against the damages it was ordered to pay for infringing Apple’s patents.
It’s almost three years since Apple was awarded $1B in damages after a jury found that Samsung infringed five of its patents. $450M of that award was later vacated and a retrial ordered to determine a revised sum, with Apple awarded a lower sum of $290M – for a revised total of $930M. The US appeals court later ruled that while Samsung did indeed copy iOS features, it should not have been penalised for copying the general look of the iPhone. The court now needs to once again revise the amount awarded.
The amount awarded in part reflected the profits Samsung was deemed to have made by infringing the patents, and it is this aspect that Google, Facebook, Dell, HP, eBay and other tech companies say is unreasonable …
Inside Sources reports that the tech companies filed what’s known as an Amicus briefing – an opinion expressed by those not directly involved in the case – arguing that turning over the full profits made from a product made no sense where just a few features among thousands were copied. The companies suggest that the precedent would encourage a mass of similar lawsuits.
“If allowed to stand, that decision will lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies, including [those filing the brief], who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components,” the group wrote in its brief to the court earlier this month.
The brief said that a few hardware components among thousands, and a few lines of code among millions, may be “largely insignificant to the user” when making the choice of product, and that upholding the ruling would stifle innovation and harm consumers.
While it may seem odd to argue that stiff penalties for copying features would stifle innovation, the argument would seem to be that companies will be afraid to develop new approaches in case they inadvertently infringe another company’s profits – it would be safer to simply continue to offer similar products to their existing ones.
Apple said that the brief should be dismissed on the grounds that an Amicus briefing can only be submitted by those with no personal interest in the case. It argued that because Samsung devices use Google’s Android operating system, Google has a direct stake in the outcome.
“Google has a strong interest in this particular case, is not an impartial ‘friend of the court,’ and should not be permitted to expand Samsung’s word limit under the guise of an amicus brief,” Apple told the court.
The case continues.