An appeals court Monday upheld the bulk of Apple’s patent victory against Samsung Electronics in 2012 but overturned part of the decision and said that a lower court should reduce the total amount that Samsung would have to pay.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which deals with patent lawsuit appeals, said the overall aesthetic of the iPhone — a rectangular product with rounded corners, black borders and a flat, clear surface — could not be protected and part of the damages would have to be recalculated.
Apple had accused Samsung of diluting its brand by copying the overall look of its iPhones. But the court said Apple failed to prove that the iPhone aesthetic was not “functional.” In other words, giving Apple protection for the overall look and shape of a smartphone would essentially grant it a perpetual monopoly over making smartphones work better, and the three-judge panel decided not to go in that direction.
“We therefore vacate the jury’s damages awards against the Samsung products that were found liable for trade dress dilution and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.
Josh Rosenstock, an Apple spokesman, lauded the decision as having “confirmed Samsung blatantly copied Apple products.”
“This is a victory for design and those who respect it,” he said.
Samsung did not have a comment.
In 2012, a jury unanimously decided that Samsung had violated a series of Apple patents and needed to pay more than $1 billion in damages, an amount that was recalculated to $930 million by another jury in a separate trial in 2013. The lawsuit was prominent, pitting two of the world’s top smartphone makers against each other.
The two companies have gone on to duel in other legal entanglements, before calling something of a truce. Last year, in a separate case, a federal jury found that Apple and Samsung had infringed on each other’s patents in some mobile devices and awarded most of the damages to Apple. In August, however, the companies said they agreed to drop suits against each other outside the United States.
Separately on Monday, Carl C. Icahn, the activist investor, published an open letter to Apple. In the 2,200-word letter, he said Apple’s shares were still “dramatically undervalued,” and urged Timothy D. Cook, the chief executive, to buy back more of Apple’s stock because the company was sitting on too much cash.