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Samsung seeks new patent law structure

Less than two weeks ago, Samsung agreed to pay Apple $548 million in a settlement in a U.S. District Court that could have ended their yearslong legal conflict.

But the clash is not over.

On Monday, Samsung filed an appeal to the Supreme Court, arguing that the legal framework for design patents — at the center of the suits between the companies — is outdated for the modern digital world. The issue at stake, Samsung says, extends well beyond the courtroom skirmishes of the two large corporations.

The case, if heard, could have far-reaching implications for design patents, which cover how a product looks, and the sort of financial penalties allowed under the law.

The legal framework for design patents, according to Samsung, some other major technology companies and legal experts, is largely shaped by a 19th century law intended to protect the designs of carpets, fireplace grates and ornamental spoons.

Back then, the design was the heart of such products, so seizing most or all of the gains of a copycat — known as the "total profit rule" — was justified. But today, a complex product like a modern smartphone is a dense bundle of intellectual property with more than 100,000 patents conceivably laying claim to some small aspect of it.

Apple declined to comment publicly about the appeal. But the company has argued in the past that the three design patents Samsung is challenging represent the essence of the iPhone — the look of its user interface, its rectangular display and its rounded shape and flat front.

In its appeal Monday, Samsung declared that the sweeping ruling against it, if left in place, would set a precedent "to reward design patents far beyond the value of any inventive contribution."

The Supreme Court is not expected to decide whether to take up the Samsung appeal until February at the earliest.

Samsung seeks new patent law structure 12/14/15 [Last modified: Monday, December 14, 2015 7:45pm]
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