Supreme Court Justices Raise Doubts About $399M Judgment Against Samsung | NBC4 Washington
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Supreme Court Justices Raise Doubts About $399M Judgment Against Samsung

Back in 2011, Apple sued over Samsung's duplication of a handful of distinctive iPhone features for which Apple holds patents

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Supreme Court Justices Raise Doubts About $399M Judgment Against Samsung
    Getty Images, File
    An Apple iPhone at left, and a Samsung Galaxy S III. The phones are the subject of a long-running legal battle between the two companies; Apple was awarded millions of dollars from Samsung for copying patented design elements of the iPhone, but Samsung is challenging that ruling at the Supreme Court.

    The Supreme Court raised serious doubts Tuesday about a $399 million judgment against smartphone maker Samsung for illegally copying parts of the patented design of Apple's iPhone.

    Justices hearing arguments in the long-running dispute seemed troubled that Samsung was ordered to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models, even though the features at issue are just a tiny part of the devices.

    But some justices struggled over how exactly a jury should be told to compute damages if the case is sent back to a lower court.

    "If I were a juror, I wouldn't know what to do," said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

    Airport Officer Stabbed

    [NATL] Airport Officer Stabbed

    A man stabbed an airport police officer Wednesday morning at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. The man is in custody and being questioned by the FBI. The airport officer was in stable condition. The FBI has said it is too early to determine if this incident is a terrorist act.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    Justice Stephen Breyer appeared to embrace a test proposed by a group of internet companies including Facebook and Google that would outline new limits on such damage awards. Other justices seemed to favor a different test proposed by the Obama administration.

    The outcome could have ripple effects across the high-tech industry as the court balances the need to encourage innovation against a desire to protect lucrative design patents.

    The case is part of series of high-stakes lawsuits between the technology rivals that began in 2011. None of the early generation Samsung phones involved in the lawsuit remains on the market.

    Cupertino, California-based Apple sued over South Korea-based Samsung's duplication of a handful of distinctive iPhone features for which Apple holds patents: the flat screen, the rounded rectangle shape of the phone, and the layout of icons on the screen.

    The companies are wrangling over how much Samsung is required to compensate Apple under an 1887 law that requires patent infringers to pay "total profit." At issue is whether that means all the profits from phone sales, or just the profit related to the specific components that were copied.

    Samsung says the hefty award ignores the fact that its phones contain more than 200,000 other patents that Apple does not own. Apple argues that the verdict is fair because the iPhone's success was directly tied to its distinctive look.

    Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    [NATL] Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    Jurors found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith after a traffic stop and a short pursuit. Smith was carrying a gun when Heaggan-Brown opened fire. Smith's family plans to sue Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    The federal appeals court in Washington that hears patent cases has ruled that Apple was entitled to all the profits.

    Samsung's lawyer Kathleen Sullivan told the court that total profits should be limited only to the sliver of the product that was copied. She said the parties could use consumer surveys and other expert testimony to show how much the design affected sales.

    The justices seemed open to the idea, but several kept wondering how it would play out using the example of the Volkswagen Beetle, a car with a quirky design that surged to popularity in the 1960s.

    "It may be that the body accounts for only 10 percent of the cost of the car, but 90 percent of the profits are attributable to the shape of the car," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.

    But Justice Samuel Alito said the Beetle example was not that helpful.

    "I can't get over the thought that nobody buys a car, even a Beetle, just because they like the way it looks," he said.

    Breyer relied on other examples to suggest that a test limiting damages to just one component that was infringed, and not the entire product, could work.

    "You know, wallpaper, you get the whole thing. A Rolls Royce thing on the hood? No, no, no. You don't get all the profit from the car," he said.

    Arguing for the Obama administration, Justice Department lawyer Brian Fletcher said the justices should adopt a multi-factor test that includes how prominent are the design features in the product, and to what extent consumers buy an iPhone or other device based on how it looks instead of what it can do.

    Both Sullivan and Apple's lawyer, former solicitor general Seth Waxman, seemed open to the court adopting a version of the government's test.

    Technology giants, including Facebook and Google, are backing Samsung. They say upholding the lower court ruling would value a single design patent at the expense of all other things a smartphone can do, leading to excessive windfalls not intended by the law.

    On the other side, companies including sportswear manufacturer Adidas and jewelry maker Tiffany & Co. say allowing recovery of total profits will discourage "design pirates" and protect companies that invest in creative designs.

    Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    [DFW-NATL] Watch: Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    A baby elephant was saved from drowning by a group of its family members at a South Korean Zoo. In a video recorded by the Seoul Grand Park Zoo, a baby elephant named Hope tried to drink from a pond, but somehow lost its balance and fell in. The calf's mother and aunt came to the rescue, first trying to reach it with their trunks, then going in the water and holding the scared calf up. They eventually brought the calf back to land. A third adult elephant was seen pacing back and forth in a separate enclosure, appearing alarmed by the situation.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    The argument comes at a rough time for Samsung. The company announced Tuesday that it is halting sales of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reports that even the replacements for problem-plagued recalled models were catching fire. That model was not part of the patent litigation.

    A ruling in the case is expected by June.