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Apple and Samsung settle US patent dispute

After a 7-year battle over iPhone design copy, companies declare peace

Samsung's Galaxy S4, left, and Apple's iPhone 5 displayed in Seoul in 2013.   © Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO / WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Apple and Samsung Electronics on Wednesday settled a seven-year patent dispute over Apple's allegations that Samsung violated its patents by "slavishly" copying the design of the iPhone.

Terms of the settlement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, were not available.

In May, a U.S. jury awarded Apple $539 million, after Samsung had previously paid Apple $399 million to compensate for patent infringement. Samsung would need to make an additional payment to Apple of nearly $140 million if the verdict was upheld.

How much, if anything, Samsung must now pay Apple under Wednesday's settlement could not immediately be learned.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the terms of the settlement but said Apple "cares deeply about design" and that "this case has always been about more than money." A Samsung spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple and Samsung are rivals for the title of world's largest smartphone maker, and the dollar sums involved in the decision are unlikely to have an impact on either's bottom line. But the case has had a lasting impact on U.S. patent law.

After a loss at trial, Samsung appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In December 2016, the court sided unanimously with Samsung's argument that a patent violator does not have to hand over the entire profit it made from stolen designs if those designs covered only certain portions of a product but not the entire object.

But when the case went back to lower court for trial this year, the jury sided with Apple's argument that, in this specific case, Samsung's profits were attributable to the design elements that violated Apple's patents.

Michael Risch, a professor of patent law at Villanova University, said that because of the recent verdict the settlement likely called for Samsung to make an additional payment to Apple.

But he said there was no clear winner in the dispute, which involved hefty legal fees for both companies. While Apple scored a major public relations victory with an initial $1 billion verdict in 2012, Samsung also obtained rulings in its favor and avoided an injunction that would have blocked it from selling phones in the U.S. market, Risch said.

 

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