That’s the amount of damages a U.S. jury has awarded to Apple in the first of the Apple v Samsung cases to go the full 12 rounds in the U.S. Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. et al., C 11-1846 & C 12-0630.
It's a decision that Apple would be pleased with on a number of counts. First, the jury upheld the validity of all Apple’s patents. It also found that Samsung had infringed Apple’s patents. Finally, the jury concluded Apple had not infringed any of Samsung’s patents. Samsung had some minor wins relating to the protectability of a couple of unregistered features that Apple claimed was iPhone “trade dress.”
This was a complex trial, by any standard, requiring the jury to adjudicate on the validity of both parties’ highly technical patents; trade dress; alleged breaches of federal anti-trust laws by Samsung, and even a breach of contract claim. It involved consideration of 3 utility patents, and 4 design patents, across 24 Samsung products. The final jury instructions given by Koh J numbered 84, some 109 pages alone. The jury had a hard task. (It was unclear if they had Siri to help them).
However, somewhat stealing the thunder from the U.S. decision due to the time difference, Samsung scored a split points decisions on its home turf also on Friday. The Seoul Central District Court’s found in favour of Samsung on regarding the infringement of two patents, and Samsung equally was found to have infringed one Apple patent. However, the damages awarded to Samsung in Seoul (40 million won (US$35,400)) wouldn’t cover the coffee and doughnut bill for Samsung’s lawyers in the District Court cafeteria. In fact, some commentators have sought to discount the significance of the Korean decision, citing nationalism of the court in defending South Korea’s largest brand (seemingly ignoring the fact that the U.S. victory was obviously in Apple’s home State). In reality, the South Korean court decision is less significant because the Korean market is much smaller than the U.S. one – thus injunctions on product sales and/or damages awarded for infringement are more consequential in countries with bigger markets for relevant products.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to draw broad conclusions about the significance of either decision, nor how either party will respond, both in and out of the courtroom. Remember Samsung and Apple are concurrently running a number of different lawsuits in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Holland, Spain, and of course, Australia (as we have previously covered on IP Whiteboard here and here). Even if the same patents were being challenged in each of these lawsuits (which they are not), a result in one jurisdiction doesn't tell us a whole lot about what might occur in the next because these are different patents issued in different countries, with different patent claims, and also due to differences in the national patent laws, laws of evidence, and so on. Finally, both companies can cease producing the offending products, provide work-arounds, or simply drop the features that relate to the infringed patents.
Also, Samsung has already indicated it will appeal the U.S. decision, while Koh J will need to decide if any of the damages should be increased because of “wilful” infringement, and also decide if any interim injunctions will be granted against any of the infringing Samsung products until the appeal process concludes. A further driving factor from Apple’s side is that it provides a proxy way of getting at Google, who owns the Android operating system that the Samsung products operate on. Motorola recently commenced its own action against Apple – and Motorola was purchased by Google in 2012.
If you needed any more convincing that there is no finish line in site, consider this figure: $219,000,000,000,00. That’s the number Bloomberg reports as the global value of the smartphone market - of which Samsung currently owns 34.6%.
$1 billion is a lot of money. But in the increasingly convoluted world of smartphone technology, such damages might just become a cost of doing business in this space.