Apple Inc. has won the support of a group of famed designers in a legal battle against Samsung before the Supreme Court. Calvin Klein is among the famous figures to warn Supreme Court against a ruling for Samsung. The case gives an important message about how the courts penalize patent infringement associated with product designs.
Ruling against Apple will diminish the value of design
In an amicus brief, more than 100 design professionals and academics weighed in for the Cupertino-based firm – Dieter Rams, Terence Conran and Calvin Klein. Their brief argues that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Korean firm would dramatically diminish the value of design, and also weaken the competitive position of the US in the world.
The design professionals remonstrated that federal juries should not attempt to engage in “amorphous and indeterminate balancing tests” about the value of various patented design elements. They should rather consider the “underlying attributes attached to the design of the product in the eye and mind of the consumer,” which assist in determining if a consumer will buy it.
A ruling by the court could either significantly weaken or strengthen design patents, said Intellectual property experts. Alan Fisch, an attorney at Fisch Sigler LLP, said “No matter which way the Supreme Court goes here, the result will shift the perceived value of design patents.”
Samsung got its own supporters
Along with the US Justice Department, the Korean firm also attracted many supporters for its own position, including tech giants like Facebook and Google. On their part, the supporters of the Korean firm argued that the interpretation of patent law used earlier by a federal court would not only discourage innovation, but also give disproportionate awards to plaintiffs.
The case is a result of the long-running struggle between Samsung and Apple Inc. in the smartphone market. This struggle has resulted into many high-profile lawsuits. The case turns on the issue of how damages should be calculated if the defendant is found guilty of infringing a patent covering the design of a product, as opposed to the patents on aspects of functioning of a product.
In 2011, the iPhone maker first filed a suit against Samsung, and won a jury verdict the next year. The iPhone maker received a $1.05bn in damages. In December, following other legal proceedings, the Korean firm agreed to pay $548m, but reserved the right to seek reimbursement if it had success at the high court.
In the case, Samsung is trying to nullify $399m in damages associated with iPhone design patents. The Korean firm says the design patents it was accused to infringe are narrow. Samsung contends that these patents cover only portions of front face “and a grid of colorful icons on a single display screen.”
Further, the Korean firm argues that giving Apple Inc. all its profits associated with its phones (found to infringe those patents) would equal to compelling the infringer of a patented design for an automobile cup holder to pay its entire profits on a car that used it.