Apple v Samsung US Ruling


In the latest instalment of the so-called smartphone war, a US District Court on 24th August 2012 found that Samsung infringed a number of Apple’s US intellectual property rights, including patent and design rights for Apple’s smartphone and tablet products. Samsung who also own a corpus of patent rights in the smartphone and tablet sector counterclaimed for infringement by Apple but this was denied.

The damages awarded to Apple, just over a US $1b, have made big headlines and confirm the substantial effect that IP rights provide if properly obtained early on in product development.

The ruling is just one of a number of cases between the parties that have, or will be decided in due course, in various territories. It may be that Samsung will appeal in the US and in the meantime Apple has applied for an injunction preventing Samsung’s US sales of the ‘offending’ products. This will be decided in due course, so watch this space.
The case has also highlighted differences between the US system and that of most other countries.

Firstly, patent trials in the US are decided at first instance by juries which is vastly different from that of the UK courts, for example, where a single judge with IP expertise hears and decides the case and what relief is granted. The use of ordinary, non-expert citizens to decide complex US civil trials, often involving huge amounts of highly technical evidence, and also to decide the amount of damages is, in some quarters, contraversial. Indeed, comments made by jurors after the Apple US trial have made interesting headlines further fuelling the debate.

Also, the Apple case involved both ‘utility patents’ and ‘design patents’. To clarify, design patents are akin to registered designs in the UK and most other countries – a registered right that protects the appearance of a product. Utility patents are akin to what non-US countries simply refer to as patents – a registered right that protects a technical invention as opposed to how it looks. Apple’s utility patents concerned aspects of the user interface operation whereas its design patents concerned the appearance of its smartphones and tablets. One of Apple’s design patents was found not infringed.

Agile IP regularly handle US patent, trade mark and design matters for its clients and work with US attorneys to secure and defend US rights in what is a hugely important market. Offering expertise in the fixed-line and mobile telecoms sectors, we are well equipped to advise. Please contact us for further information.