Why Facebook and Google are siding with Samsung in its Supreme Court battle with Apple

2016-10-12

The Supreme Court will hear a long-running corporate battle on Tuesday over how much Samsung should have to pay its rival Apple (AAPL) for copying the iPhone’s design.

The dispute has attracted over a dozen amicus curiae (“friend of the Court” briefs) arguing the case has wide-ranging implications. One of those briefs came from major tech companies—including Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Dell and Hewlett Packard (HPQ)—which asserted the dispute “presented a question of enormous practical importance” to them.

This is the first time the High Court has taken a look at design patents in well over 100 years, four years after a lower court jury found Samsung had copied part of the iPhone’s design and awarded Apple nearly $1 billion in damages that were later reduced.

That question is not whether Samsung copied parts of the iPhone’s design—including its rounded corners, a “bezel” or surrounding rim, a grid of 16 colorful icons and the phone’s “distinctive front face”—among other features, according to Apple’s description.

Rather than deciding the issue of infringement, the Supreme Court justices will decide whether Samsung owes Apple all the profits it made from its infringing phones—or just those profits attributable to the infringing features.


Samsung Electronics North America President & CEO Gregory Lee delivers opening remarks at the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone at the Samsung Galaxy Studio, in New York, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)