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Samsung and Apple settle 7-year patent legal battle

June 29,2018
The patent war between the two biggest smartphone rivals has finally ended.

Samsung Electronics and Apple have settled a seven-year legal dispute over each other’s design patents. Neither disclosed the amount of the settlement.

The two giants informed the district court in San Jose, California, “they have agreed to drop and settle their remaining claims and counterclaims in this matter,” according to an order signed by Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California. The settlement means all suits will be dismissed and no further case will be filed on the same claim.

“We can only say that we have settled with Apple and cannot offer any comment,” said a Samsung spokesman.

The dramatic turn of the lengthy legal battle came a month after retrial jurors in the Northern District of California handed Apple $538.6 million in damages for Samsung violating design and utility (technical) patents that included the infamous “rounded corner” patent. Samsung at the time vowed to consider its options including another appeal.

This isn’t the first time the Galaxy and iPhone makers reached an agreement to end a patent war in a court room. In 2014 they agreed to drop all patent litigation outside the U.S.

The legal fight in the United States began in April 2011 when Apple sued Samsung, saying its Galaxy phones violated patents and copied the design of the iPhone, and seeking $2.5 billion in damages. Samsung was ordered to pay $1.05 billion in damages by jurors in 2012, which was reduced on appeal to $930 million.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit stripped another $382 million from that, saying the iPhone’s appearance could not be protected through trademarks, to $548 million in December 2015.

A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider the $399 million in damages in a unanimous opinion that damages for design patent infringement can be based only on the part of the device that infringed the patent, not on the entire product.

Samsung insisted then that it should only have to pay $28 million in damages for profits from the components of its Galaxy phones that copied Apple’s patents.

For both Samsung and Apple, the legal battle cost time and money, ultimately encouraging them to drop the exhausting fight.

“This dispute raised some important issues and contributed to the evolution of patent case law,” said Florian Mueller, a noted intellectual property activist who has covered the event from the start, “but the part related to design patents was going in circles. Apparently the parties thought so as well, at this point. At long last.”

He went on to say, “Apple has clearly proven that it’s prepared to enforce its intellectual property rights. Vigorously. Persistently. Patiently. And Samsung has shown that it’s a formidable defendant.”

Many things have changed over the course of the seven years. Samsung overtook Apple to become the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker in the third quarter of 2011 - four years after Apple came up with the world’s first smartphone. Currently Android phones dominate the smartphone market with an over 85 percent share, whereas iPhones have a mere 15 percent. Apple is now walking away from the courtroom with hundreds of millions of dollars from Samsung.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]