The Supreme Court raised serious doubts Tuesday about a $399 million lower-court judgment against smartphone maker Samsung for illegally copying parts of the patented design of Apple’s iPhone. Justices hearing arguments in the long-running dispute seemed troubled that Samsung was ordered to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models even though the features at issue are just a tiny part of the devices. And some justices struggled over how exactly a jury should be told to compute damages if the case is sent back to a lower court.
If I were a juror, I wouldn’t know what to do.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
The outcome could have a ripple effect across the high-tech industry as the court balances the need to encourage innovation against a desire to protect lucrative design patents. The case is part of a series of high-stakes lawsuits between the technology rivals that began in 2011. The court’s apparent willingness to side with Samsung will come as scant relief on the day the company announced it is permanently stopping all sales and production of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones. The South Korean company said in a regulatory filing that it decided to stop manufacturing Note 7s for the sake of consumer safety. Samsung is struggling to regain consumer trust after a first round of recalls that prompted criticism both for the faulty devices and for the company’s handling of the problem.