Samsung and Apple's legal battle may finally be over after a jury at the U.S. Northern California District Court in San Jose decided that Samsung would need to pay $539 million for patent infringement damages. For those who may not have been following the case, the claims of patent infringement originated in 2011 and center around at least five Apple design patents. Although the case was lost for Samsung near the beginning, in 2012, court proceedings and trials have continued as the Korean tech giant fought for a reduction in damages. Those were originally set at $1 billion before a Supreme Court case ruled that Samsung would only need to pay out for the portion of profits. More directly, that portion needed to be determined based on the income derived from the components for which patents were infringed.
While this isn't necessarily good news for Samsung, it isn't bad news either. Originally, Apple had sought $2.5 billion in damages. Through initial litigation and subsequent appeals processes, Samsung was able to work that number down to just under $1 billion – at $930 million. From there, the figure has consistently lowered with each court case. So, although the final outcome of this case is set at $539 million in damages, that's a significantly lower number. Perhaps more important, however, is that the current general consensus is that Apple effectively proved its case. Namely, it was able to prove that an overall design can be infringed as easily as individual components. With nearly every smartphone on the planet – Apple-branded devices included – utilizing the same components and same basic layout for those components, this could set a relatively difficult to overcome precedent. In the shortest possible terms, it will at very least create additional strain for companies that are trying to make headway in the mobile world. Worse scenarios might include problems with consistency from device to device or a resurgence of patent wars in the technology industry. Neither of those is guaranteed but each is a concern from this ruling.
Conversely, Samsung could still appeal this ruling despite that the current fees are well within its ability to pay. As unlikely as that prospect seems at this juncture, and although nobody wants to see this case dragged out for another 7 years or more, it hasn't been taken off the table. In the meantime, with any luck, the new decision concludes this case which arguably already carried on for far too long.