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In the ongoing battle saga between the world's two leading smartphone behemoths, a US judge has reduced the amount Samsung must pay Apple for IP infringement by US$450 million. She also ordered a retrial.

US District Court judge Lucy Koh has reduced the billion dollars that Samsung must pay Apple for copyright infringement by nearly half. In August 2012 a US jury said that Samsung had infringed upon Apple’s iPhone designs, awarding a whopping US $1.05 billion dollars in damages.

Now that has been reduced to $US555 million. But that’s not necessarily the final figure – judge Koh has ordered a retrial after saying that the jury in the original trial had not followed her instructions about calculating the amount of the damages.

But she did not change her original ruling that Samsung had in fact violated Apple’s copyright for various aspects of smartphone design. The retrial will be to determine the amount of the damages, not the nature of them. The patent infringements that Samsung was guilty of:

  • Samsung allowed users to enlarge documents by tapping the screen, just as the iPhone does.
  • They incorporated “bouncing back” when you reach the bottom of the screen (the “rubber band”).
  • Samsung made a distinction between single finger and multi-finger actions (e.g. zooming with a two-finger “pinch” gesture.
  • Samsung infringed on the shape of and the colour of the iPhone (and was found guilty of separate patent violation for black and white iPhones).
  • Some Samsung icons were similar to Apple’s, and had similar rounded edges

Many have derided the details of the infringements, regarding them as petty and not worthy of copyright protection. The case has thrown into high relief the nature of copyright protection in the US, and the litigious nature of the IT industry.

And it’s not just the US. Similar legal battles are still going on in many other jurisdictions, including Germany, Japan, Britain and France. And in Samsung’s home, South Korea, where – surprise, surprise – a jury has found in Samsung’s favour.

Since the original ruling Samsung has outsold Apple in the growing global smartphone market. Both companies are awash with cash – they are making billions from smartphones, while their rivals struggle. Samsung could easily pay Apple the damages awarded, and may even eventually do so – if the case ever comes to an end.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire and editor of sister publication CommsWire. He is also founder and Research Director of Connection Research, a market research and analysis firm specialising in the convergence of sustainable, digital and environmental technologies. He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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