Today marks a new turn in the seemingly unending patent war between Apple and Samsung. The Supreme Court sided with Samsung, ruling 8-0 to overturn an appeals court ruling from 2015. The court heard arguments in the case back in October — the first time the Supreme Court had addressed this type of patent dispute in over 120 years.
It all started back in 2011 when Apple sued Samsung, alleging that several features of Samsung’s smartphones — like its slide-to-unlock and autocorrect features — were taken from proprietary Apple technology.
Samsung argued that it shouldn’t have had to turn over the whole of its smartphone profits on phones that infringed iPhone design patents. They noted that elements that may have infringed on the iPhone’s design patents contributed only a small portion to the design of the overall smartphone product.
“A smartphone contains thousands of parts, many of which are functional rather than ornamental,” Samsung argued in court documents from February. “The law of the smartphone cannot follow reflexively from the law of the spoon.”
A Samsung spokesperson wrote in a statement, “For decades, we have invested heavily in developing revolutionary innovations in the mobile industry and beyond. We are confident that our products do not infringe on Apple’s design patents, and we will continue to take appropriate measures to protect our products and our intellectual property.”
The Supreme Court decision effectively means that patent infringement for any one element of a product design should be enforced differently from the infringement of an entire design. This gives Samsung an opportunity to try to reclaim $399 million of the $548 million it paid out to Apple back in December 2015. Back in 2012, Samsung was initially ordered to pay nearly $1 billion — but the fees were cut back to the $548 million figure through a series of additional court cases.
The case will now reportedly return to lower courts for further proceedings to address remaining issues.