Samsung is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review U.S. design patent laws as part of the company's appeal involving an ongoing patent-infringement case with Apple.
Samsung recently agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages after a multi-year legal battle between the two companies, but now Samsung is appealing the matter and asking America's highest court to look at the broader implications of the patent laws that are used today, according to a Dec. 14 story by The New York Times.
The appeal from Samsung argues that the framework for U.S. design patents is "outdated for the modern digital world" and should be reviewed by the court to resolve the problems for all companies, the story reported.
It is uncertain if the high court will choose to hear the case.
In the ongoing patent dispute between Samsung and Apple, design patents related to Apple's iPhones have been the central theme in the case for more than four years, according to an earlier eWEEK story. In its original patent-infringement lawsuit against Samsung, Apple argued that Samsung's smartphones mimicked Apple's design, with a rectangular body, rounded edges and other features. In August 2012, a California jury found that Samsung infringed on Apple's patents in the design of its tablets and smartphones, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Galaxy 10.1 tablets and such smartphone models as the Captivate, the Galaxy S line, the Fascinate and the Epic 4 G. The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple more than $1.05 billion in damages, which was later reduced to about $930 million.
Then in May 2015, an appeals court threw out another $382 million of the award related to aesthetic design elements like rounded corners on smartphones and the shape of apps. That meant Samsung was still liable to pay Apple more than $500 million in connection with the original jury verdict. That amount represents the total profit of Samsung's infringing Galaxy products to Apple to make up for profit Apple lost in sales to Samsung Galaxy devices. Samsung then asked the court to review that decision in June.
The issue of design patents in the Samsung-Apple case has also attracted the attention of other Silicon Valley giants, including Google, eBay, HP, Dell, and Facebook, which in July filed a "friend of the court" brief in support of Samsung's position in its legal battle with Apple. The friend of the court brief argued that if Apple would win the remaining legal issues in the case that it would improperly open the business world up to a huge number of similar lawsuits in connection with product design features.
The companies named in the brief argued that the previous decision in the Samsung-Apple case could stifle innovation and limit consumer choice if it continued to stand.
For both Apple and Samsung, the stakes in the ongoing case are huge because of its implications for competition in the multibillion-dollar mobile device market.
Interestingly, Samsung reached a 10-year patent deal with Google in January 2014 to share patent licenses with each other for existing and future innovations, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Google and Samsung have been close partners in combining Google's Android mobile operating system and Samsung's mobile device hardware for several years.