In the latest chapter of Clash of the Tech Titans, South Korea's Samsung Electronics has been ordered to pay more than $290 million in damages to Apple Inc. as penance because a Calfornia jury determined it copied the iconic iPhone in designs for its smartphones.
Samsung, maker of the popular Galaxy S and Galaxy Note devices, came out at the losing end of a two-year court battle over patents, and the latest fine brings the total damages awarded to Apple to $928.9 million.
At issue is the pinch-and-zoom feature used in Samsung's displays as well as the basic design itself that plaintiffs argued, and the San Jose federal district court jury agreed, are designed to mimic the iPhone, which launched the smartphone market into the stratosphere when it debuted in 2007.
The suit targets 13 older devices made by Samsung, and Apple now wants them banned in the U.S.
The latest awards come after two days of deliberations at the conclusion of a retrial on some aspects of the case after Judge Lucy Koh set aside part of a previous jury's verdict awarding $1 billion, citing miscalculation. Apple's chief marketing officer, Phil Schiller, testified at the trial and said the infringement "weakens the view that the world has for Apple," according to press reports.
"For Apple, this case has always been about more than patents and money," Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a widely published statement. "It has been about innovation and the hard work that goes into inventing products that people love."
In response to our request for comment, a Samsung spokesperson said in an emailed statement, "We are disappointed by today’s decision, which is based in large part on a patent that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has recently deemed invalid. While we move forward with our post-trial motions and appeals, we will continue to innovate with groundbreaking technologies and great products that are loved by our many customers all around the world."
It was a bad month for the world's top handset maker (by volume), which had to pay $340,000 in fines because it hired people to post negative comments in Taiwanese online forums. The fine was levied by Taiwan's Fair Trade Commission.
Not High Enough?
Technology analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group said the two companies will likely continue to beat each other up in court. But he said the outcome wouldn't likely have a severe impact on Samsung, which controls 32 percent of the smartphone market, according to Gartner Research. Apple's share is 12 percent.
"The fines would need to be higher and either current products blocked or fines iterative for that to change," said Enderle.
The analyst said the fine amount doesn't really send a message. "I think they needed a higher fine to change behavior and punish a firm they see as guilty -- and this is too high if they just wanted to go through the motions," he said.