Samsung Gets Silicon Valley Support in Patent Fight With Apple

Facebook, Google, HP, Dell, eBay and others enter a "friend of the court" brief to support Samsung in its ongoing patent war with Apple.

Apple Samsung patent case

Samsung has some unlikely allies in its ongoing patent fight with Apple as a coalition of Silicon Valley giants have 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, which argues that if Apple would win the remaining legal issues in the case that it "opens the entire industry up to mass patent infringement lawsuits" was filed by companies as diverse as Google, eBay, HP, Dell, and Facebook, according to a July 20 story by InsideSources.

The brief asks the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals court that is hearing the case to review an earlier decision that orders Samsung to turn over profits from a handful of Apple patent infringements, the story reported. The Silicon Valley coalition argues that if the court upholds the previous ruling that it could stifle innovation and limit consumer choice.

"If allowed to stand, that decision will lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies, including [the briefing draftees], who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components," the group wrote in its brief, according to the story.

Patent cases have become out of control, the companies wrote in their brief, because they often hinge on only a few design elements in products that are built from thousands of parts, the story reported. "Under the [court] panel's reasoning, the manufacturer of a smart television containing a component that infringed any single design patent could be required to pay in damages its total profit on the entire television, no matter how insignificant the design of the infringing feature was to the manufacturer’s profit or to consumer demand," the group argued in its brief.

That can also apply to software design, as in the Samsung case with Apple, the brief continued.

The latest Apple Samsung patent fight has been going on for about four years. 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, according to earlier eWEEK reports.

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 means that Samsung is 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, according to the InsideSources report. Samsung then asked to court to review that decision in June.

Apple has argued that the friend of the court brief should be dismissed, the story continued, because of the inclusion of its Android operating system and applications on Samsung devices. "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 argued to the court.

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.