The Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s are two families from West Virginia and Kentucky, who furiously fought each other from 1863- 1891. Their names will forever go down in history as two groups of people who would fight over anything and everything. Well fast-forward to 2015 and it looks like tech giants, Samsung and Apple, are about to add their names to the feuding hall of fame, only now it looks like Samsung is about to get some help. Earlier this year, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple over half a billion dollars for infringing on Apple design patents. The court said the damages were based on what the entire iPhone product was worth instead of just certain aspects of the phone. So in layman’s terms the court said they thought Samsung only infringed on a few aspects of the iPhone, but those aspects damaged the entire product. Last month, Samsung tried to get the court to rethink its decision by saying that this ruling would “invite overprotection and overcompensation for design patents, free from the limitations imposed in other areas of intellectual property law” and “lead to ‘an explosion of design patent assertions and lawsuits.” Just as Samsung was about to pull out its checkbook, this month other tech companies have come to its aide. Facebook, Google, Dell, HP and eBay among others have all signed a petition with a federal appeals court. In their appeal signed early this month, they have asked the court to think long and hard about their ruling. They contend that if this ruling is allowed to stand it would open the entire tech industry as a whole to countless lawsuits and patent infringement cases. As well as killing all hope for future innovation that would in turn not only hurt the consumer but the industry as a whole.
In their friend of the court appeal, the friends of Samsung sent a brief to the court in which they stated “If allowed to stand, that decision will lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies, including [the briefing draftees], who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components.” “Under the panel’s reasoning, the manufacturer of a smart television containing a component that infringed any single design patent could be required to pay in damages its total profit on the entire television, no matter how insignificant the design of the infringing feature was to the manufacturer’s profit or to consumer demand.” “Software products and online platforms face similar dangers. A design patent may cover the appearance of a single feature of a graphical user interface, such as the shape of an icon. That feature–a result of a few lines out of millions of code–may appear only during a particular use of the product, on one screen display among hundreds. But the panel’s decision could allow the owner of the design patent to receive all profits generated by the product or platform, even if the infringing element was largely insignificant to the user and it was the thousands of other features, implemented across the remainder of the software that drove the demand generating those profits.”
In other words, they feel that there are basic aspects of certain tech devices whether it be phones or TV’s that will probably be in all forms of that technology regardless of who makes it. Most of the time it’s only a small part of those devices, and most people when they buy those devices don’t base their choice solely on those small aspects. Another way of saying it is people don’t buy certain cells phones because of the shape of the app icons. In its defense of this new wave of attacks, Apple has said that Google should have no say in the matter because almost all Samsung phones use Google Android as their operating system. In this 21 century version of the Hatfield’s vs. McCoy’s, it looks like the battle lines have been drawn, and the real fight is just getting started.