Apple stings Samsung for $119.6M over patents, but Samsung scores a point


A California jury reached a verdict Friday evening that found Samsung violated two of Apple’s iPhone-related patents, and ordered the Korean company to pay $119.6 million in damages, in what amounted to a re-run of a closely watched trial from two years ago.

According to reports from the courtroom, the eight person jury sided with Apple on two of the patents, including one for “slide to unlock” technology but, in a significant symbolic victory for Samsung, also concluded that Apple had infringed one of Samsung’s patents.

The jury’s award to Samsung was more modest — $158,400, which is likely a result of the fact that Samsung had only sought around $6 million, compared to the $2.2 billion sought by Apple.

The jury also found that Samsung knew or should have known that it was infringing, which means Apple can ask the judge to triple the jury’s damage award. The judge is also likely to review the overall damages and, as occurred in 2012, potentially reduce the amount.

Photo from Flickr/Hakan Dahlstrom

Photo from Flickr/Hakan Dahlstrom

If you’re keeping score, this is the second time the two companies have duked it out in a San Jose courtroom over whether Samsung devices infringe on iPhone patents. Samsung got the worst of it the first time around, after a jury in 2012 ordered it to pay $1.05 billion while denying its counterclaims against Apple (after a retrial over damages last year, the final figure was closer to $930 million).

Apple accused Samsung of infringing on five patents, including one for “slide-to-unlock” and “quick links.” It pointed to ten Samsung devices, including the  Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S II Skyrocket, Galaxy S3,and Stratosphere.

Samsung sought damages for two of its own patents related to camera and voice technology, citing Apple devices that included the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, the iPad 4 and the iPad mini.

This time in court, Samsung employed a new strategy by seeking a modest amount of around $6 million in damages for the patents it alleges Apple infringed. The idea was to convey that smartphone patents in general are overvalued and that the $2.2 billion,  or $40 per phone, sought by Apple was unrealistic.

Ironically, as with the previous case, the verdict is unlikely to make a difference in the market since the pace of patent litigation trails the pace at which smartphones evolve — meaning the decisions ultimately concern outdated technology.

The overall case has raised the question of the efficiency of the endless patent litigation over smartphones, which has led the companies to spend hundreds of millions on legal bills, and on high-priced expert witnesses.

Both sides are likely to appeal the verdict, and to ask the judge for an injunction.

“Today’s ruling reinforces what courts around the world have already found: that Samsung willfully stole our ideas and copied our products. We are fighting to defend the hard work that goes into beloved products like the iPhone, which our employees devote their lives to designing and delivering for our customers,” said Apple in statement. (We’ll update with Samsung’s when the company provides one)

This story was updated several times as new information became available.

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