For the first time in more than a century, the United States Supreme Court will be presented with a design patent problem – the case of Apple Inc. Vs. Samsung Electronics. For years Apple and Samsung have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle for originality versus innovation.
Four years ago a court ruled that Samsung would have to pay Apple $548.2 million for infringing on its copyright design for the iPhone. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately decide who’s on the right side of the law. Surprisingly, it’s Samsung that has all the real supporters behind it, including Google, Facebook and a number of university professors.
The support group submitted a ‘friend of the court’ brief to the effect that Samsung is right and Apple is wrong, but only the Supreme Court can overturn the previous judgement, forcing Apple to return nearly $400 million of the money it received from Samsung.
This is a critical time for the South Korean electronics and appliances giant, which is still reeling under the effects of the massive Note 7 recall as well as continued problems with its replacement phones. Earlier this week it was noted that Samsung may halt production of the Note 7; U.S. carriers like Verizon and AT&T have already stopped selling the smartphone.
The issue here is not one a simple one of violating a copyright. It has much wider implications depending on which way the court rules. Supporters of Samsung will naturally be looking to the court to overturn the case, but if that does not happen it may set a precedent for manufacturers to start copyrighting every little design element of their phones. In turn, this will curb innovation and creativity, and that’s the crux of what Samsung and its supporters are saying.
On the other hand, design is a major component of Apple’s entire branding effort. Users have come to expect distinctive design in their iPhones, Macs, iPads and iPods. If Apple’s case is overturned, it will heavily impact their ability to stand out in terms of design.
The arguments are strong on both sides, and all that remains to be seen is which way the court will rule. Sources say the ruling will come no later than June of next year.
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