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10 December 2015

Samsung pays damages to Apple, but already demanding a refund

The never-ending saga of Apple’s patents war with Samsung continues. The Korean firm has agreed to pay the $548m in damages ordered by a US appeals court recently, but that may not be the end to the yo-yo of claims and rulings which have gone on over the past five years since Apple first accused its rival of “slavishly copying” the iPhone. Samsung said in its filing that it will still appeal to the Supreme Court, and will seek a refund of the damages paid, if that case goes its way, and/or the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) invalidates the patents at issue.

In the latest twist, the appeals court had refused Samsung’s petition to block an order to pay the damages. This is one of just two cases still unresolved between the two firms, both in the US – they have settled or abandoned those in other countries. The disputed IPR relates mainly to design patents, and the ‘pinch to zoom’ technology. The latter has been invalidated by the PTO, but Apple is challenging that ruling.

“We are disappointed that the court has agreed to proceed with Apple’s grossly exaggerated damages claims regardless of whether the patents are valid,” said a Samsung spokesperson. “While we’ve agreed to pay Apple, we remain confident that our products do not infringe on Apple’s design patents, and we will continue to take all appropriate measures within the legal system to protect our products and our intellectual property.”

Samsung has until December 14 to file its petition to the Supreme Court. The battle is increasingly seen as self-destructive and pointless, and a distraction from real innovation, but with Samsung clearly still in fighting mood, it may not be settled until well into next year, if then. Apple has, of course, refused to acknowledge that Samsung might be entitled to any reimbursement, even if the PTO upholds its previous ruling to invalidate the patent, and it is also petitioning a California court to increase the damages because, it says, its patents are still being infringed, and also to award $1.8m in costs.

The other surviving lawsuit is also dragging on. It relates to patents for the ‘slide to unlock’, autocorrect and quicklink iPhone features. A patents appeal court said in September that Apple could get a narrowly worded order that would bar Samsung from using these inventions. Samsung, backed by Google, Facebook, eBay and HTC, is asking for that ruling to be reversed, on the grounds that it has created damaging uncertainty by giving patent holders free rein to demand unfairly large settlements. A recent settlement conference failed to achieve any resolution.