The United States Supreme Court has agreed to become involved in a long running patent dispute between rival mobile phone manufacturers Apple Inc and Samsung. Last year, a lower court ruled that Samsung had indeed copied elements of the Apple iPhone and ordered it to pay $930 million in damages.
To date Samsung has paid Apple $548 million but has indicated it will expect to be reimbursed should it succeed in the Supreme Court. Samsung is arguing the penalty was disproportionate to the extent to which the elements of its mobile phones that were found to violate the Apple patent contribute to the overall design of its phones.
The tech giant has also asserted that the elements of its phones that mimic the iPhone, the rounded-corner front face, bezel and colorful grid of icons, are so minor they could not be considered a significant influence on consumer choice.
“A patented design might be the essential feature of a spoon or rug. But the same is not true of smartphones, which contain countless other features that give them remarkable functionality wholly unrelated to their design,” Samsung said.
Apple urged the Supreme Court not to take the case, but a number of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have taken the side of Samsung, agreeing that it is unfair to fine a company the profits for such a complex product if it is found to contain one copied element. Google and Facebook have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on the grounds that, should the Supreme Court rule against Samsung it will lead to more such lawsuits and stifle innovation.