Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Apple Inc. on Wednesday have settled a seven-year patent dispute over the latter’s allegations that Samsung violated its patents by “slavishly” copying the design of the iPhone.
The terms of the settlement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, were not disclosed.
Also, how much, if anything, Samsung must now pay Apple under Wednesday’s settlement could not immediately be learned.
In May, a U.S. jury granted Apple $539 million; after Samsung had previously paid Apple $399 million to make up for patent infringement. Samsung would need to make an additional payment to Apple of nearly $140 million if the verdict was upheld.
An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the terms of the settlement but said Apple “cares deeply about design” and that “this case has always been about more than money.” A Samsung spokesperson also declined to comment.
Apple and Samsung are rivals for the title of world’s largest smartphone maker, and the dollar sums involved in the decision are doubtful to have an impact on either’s bottom line. However, the case has had a lasting impact on U.S. patent law.
After a loss at trial, Samsung appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Last December 2016, the court sided unanimously with Samsung’s argument that a patent violator does not have to and over the entire profit it made from stolen designs if those only covered certain portions of a product but not the entire object.
However, when the case went back to lower court for trial this year, the jury sided with Apple’s argument that, in this specific case, Samsung’s profits were attributable to the design elements that violated Apple’s patents.
Michael Risch, a professor of patent law at Villanova University, said that because of the recent verdict the settlement likely called for Samsung to make an additional payment to Apple.
But he said there was no clear winner in the dispute, which involved hefty legal fees for both companies. While Apple scored a major public relations victory with an initial $1 billion verdict in 2012, Samsung also obtained rulings in its favor and avoided an injunction that would have blocked it from selling phones in the U.S. market, Risch said.
The smartphone wars follow a long American tradition of patent disputes whenever there are dramatic innovations in an industry, whether it be sewing machines, airplanes, radios, computers or diapers.
Companies use their patents to slow down the growth of their rivals, for bragging rights or to force competitors to change their products.
Although the smartphone market is no longer growing, Apple and Samsung will probably remain competitors for decades to come in new categories such as self-driving cars, augmented reality glasses, smart speakers and artificial intelligence software.
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