Appeals Court Agrees that Samsung Copied Apple

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled Monday that Samsung did indeed copy Apple. In a 34-page ruling, the court upheld most Apple's landmark victory over Samsung in 2012, but threw out damages relating to trade dress.

The result leaves intact most, but not all, of the US$930 million damages award Apple won from a jury, but it remains to be seen how much it will be adjusted. According to Reuters, up to 40 percent of the award will be reconsidered.

An Apple spokesperson told The New York Times the ruling, "confirmed Samsung blatantly copied Apple products. This is a victory for design and those who respect it."

Samsung has not yet issued a statement. The company has a long history of losing patent battles and then using appeals and other stalling tactics to delay payment for as long as possible.

Neither company has said whether they will appeal Monday's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. While this and related patent battles were fought vigorously at the time, Apple and Samsung have since buried the hatchet and agreed to stop their patent battles outside the U.S.

Monday's ruling boils down to the reality that Apple's win over design patents was upheld, while Apple's victory over trade dress was not. In other words, Apple's innovations in the area of user interface remain protected in this ruling, but the overall look of Apple's hardware was not.

From the ruling:

We therefore affirm the district court’s denial of Samsung’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on the invalidity of claim 50 of the ’163 patent and claim 8 of the ’915 patent, as well as the damages awarded for utility patent infringement. We also affirm the district court’s denial of Samsung’s motions for a new trial on these same issues. We remand for immediate entry of final judgment on all damages awards not predicated on Apple’s trade dress claims and for any further proceedings necessitated by our decision to vacate the jury’s verdicts on the unregistered and registered trade dress claims.

This court case revealed internal Samsung documents that specified the many ways its smartphone division planned to copy Apple in order to make their Android devices less bad. The strategy worked, and Samsung began a precipitous ascent to the top of the Android world that started with the Samsung Galaxy device.

Samsung cemented its lead with the Galaxy S3, one of the earliest large screen smartphones. While Samsung always played second fiddle to Apple in terms of smartphone profits, the company was able to capture the lion's share of smartphone market share propelled by its popular large screen devices.

Today, however, Samsung's smartphone division is floundering after Apple finally released its own large screen iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Monday's ruling probably won't help.