The patent war between Apple and Samsung has been raging for for eons. Well, several years at any rate. Now some of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies are stepping up to help – and they’re taking Samsung’s side.
The long-standing fight started in 2011 when Apple complained that Samsung had copied patented elements of the iPhone when designing their Galaxy phones. The court eventually ruled that Samsung had indeed infringed on six out of seven patents – including multi-touch and tap-to-zoom gestures – ordering the South Korean giant to pay Apple damages equal to the total profits made by their Galaxy devices. That totaled the not-insignificant sum of $1.05bn.
This amount has since been lowered to a mere half billion dollars or so, but Samsung are continuing to fight the ruling. It says that “awarding damages based on the value of an entire product” is a disproportionate punishment when only certain parts of the product were deemed to be infringing patents.
Companies including Google, Facebook, eBay, Dell and HP have filed a joint “friend of the court” briefing in favor of Samsung’s argument, warning that the verdict as it stands could set a precedent for unfair, “absurd results” in the future. They explain that tech products are “too complex” to be boiled down to “one convenient legal definition of patent infringement” when only certain aspects of a design have been copied. The briefing continues:
“Under the 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.”
With so many big names showing up to support Samsung, Apple may not get that big payout after all. Many analysts think that could be a good thing for consumers, as Apple winning the case could “influence a rapid uptick in patent trolling” and generally stifle innovation as companies would become scared of infringing even the slightest design element.
Apple, unsurprisingly, has formally requested that the court ignores Google’s opinion, as the company has a “strong interest in this particular case” and cannot be considered impartial – most of Samsung’s products run a version Google’s Android operating system.