11.07.17

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The US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) Lets Apple Have Its Way and Refuses to Reassess Design and Software Patents

Posted in Apple, Patents, Samsung at 7:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

If Apple had a monopoly on apples, it would strive to ‘own’ peaches, too

Some peaces

Summary: In another ongoing case implicating Samsung and Apple the Justices who inadvertently lay the ground for patent law refuse to intervene

Samsung and Apple have several concurrent legal disputes which can wind up with SCOTUS eliminating entire families of patents. As it turns out, however, this case just wasn’t to be. SCOTUS refuses to deal with this case which is involving design patents. There was a good aspect to it in 2014 (software patents), namely that of perpetuating Alice rather than overriding it in any way. As The Register‘s Andrew Silver put it yesterday evening:

Samsung seems to have trouble accepting reality when it comes to a long-running patent spat with Apple.

The US Supreme Court today declined to hear another appeal of a May 2014 verdict awarding Apple $119.6m for Samsung’s alleged infringement of software patents including “quick links”, Reuters reports.

An eight-person jury first sided with Apple in May 2014.

[...]

Samsung decided to take its case to the Supreme Court, arguing that there were procedural issues. Evidently the justices disagree.

Ars Technica‘s Mullin has already covered this too, recalling that patents on “smartphone autocorrect and “slide to unlock” were invalid in light of prior art.”

But this one is about design patents, not software patents. And the focus is the level of ‘damages’:

News today concerns the second verdict. In 2016, the $120 million verdict was thrown out entirely by a panel of judges on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals. The judges said that patents on Apple features like smartphone autocorrect and “slide to unlock” were invalid in light of prior art.

[...]

The infringed patents in this case include US Patent Nos. 8,046,721 (slide-to-unlock), 8,074,172 (word correction), and 5,946,647 (quick links). The ’647 “quick links” patent, which describes a process for turning structures such as addresses and phone numbers into easily clickable links, accounted for nearly $100 million of the damages award.

[...]

As for that first verdict, it has gone up and down through appeals courts many times, significantly lowering the damages figure in the process. Right now, it’s getting lined up for another jury trial to reconsider $399 million in damages. The US Supreme Court said that the method used to calculate damages on design patents, the biggest part of the verdict, was improper.

This case does not concern software directly; still, we were hoping that design patents too would be challenged. These patents are an overkill when copyright and trademark laws already cover designs to a certain — and likely sufficient — degree.

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