Mobile

Samsung's Apple appeal denied. Next step: Supreme Court?

The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means Samsung has two options: appeal the case to the Supreme Court or hand over to Apple hundreds of millions of dollars.

The only recourse left for Samsung in its ongoing battle with Apple may be to go to the US Supreme Court. CNET

Samsung's hopes of scuttling a massive fine on alleged patent infringement of Apple products have been dashed, leaving the company with only two options: break out the cash or try its luck with the US Supreme Court, according to a report.

The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decided on Thursday that it would not grant Samsung's request for a new trial on whether nearly two dozen of the company's mobile devices infringed on Apple's design patents, according to San Jose Mercury News, which obtained a copy of the decision. If Samsung's request had been granted, a new hearing would have been held to determine whether the company's products actually violated Apple's patents. But since it has lost, Samsung must either dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to Apple or attempt to have the US Supreme Court to hear the case, the report says.

"We are disappointed that our request for an en banc hearing of the US Court of Appeals was denied," a Samsung spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "For decades, we have invested heavily in developing revolutionary innovations in the mobile industry and beyond. We are confident that our products do not infringe on Apple's design patents, and we will continue to take appropriate measures to protect our products and our intellectual property."

Apple declined to comment on the court's decision, but has charged in the past that Samsung "willfully stole our ideas and copied our products."

Samsung's loss could prove to be the final say on the company's bid to overturn a ruling in 2012 that found Samsung violated Apple's design patents across its smartphone and tablet line. The company was initially required to pay over $1 billion in damages, but that figure has since been pared down to $548 million after a series of hearings and appeals.

In 2011, Apple filed a lawsuit against Samsung, accusing it of violating several patents in the design of its mobile devices. Apple won the trial in 2012, with the jury awarding it $1.05 billion in damages. In March 2013, US District Court Judge Lucy Koh cut $450.5 million off those damages, but in November 2013, a jury awarded Apple an additional $290.5 million in damages, ultimately amounting to approximately $930 million.

Samsung appealed the decision, and in May (PDF), the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the violations concerning design patents but struck down certain damages related to trade dress, a legal term that refers to the way a product is packaged or presented. The decision reduced the amount of damages owed by Samsung to $548 million.

The Circuit Court's ruling may also prove to be troubling to several Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Facebook, eBay, and PC makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard, that together filed a brief with the federal court in July. Those companies argued that Apple's victory in 2012 against Samsung covered only minor technologies, adding that if upheld, the infringement could set off a ripple effect that could negatively affect companies attempting to develop "useful modern technologies."

"If allowed to stand, that decision will lead to absurd results and have a devastating impact on companies...who spend billions of dollars annually on research and development for complex technologies and their components," the companies said in a statement to the court filed on July 1.

The issues with Samsung and Apple date back to 2011 when the companies sued each other in the US, a host of countries in the European Union, and Asia. Both Apple and Samsung argued that the other was violating patents each held related to mobile technology. Over the years, the companies' top products -- including Apple's iPhone and iPad line, as well as Samsung's Galaxy line -- were entangled in the proceedings. Both companies hoped to ban the sale of allegedly infringing products and receive damages on their sale.

The international cases Apple and Samsung were waging were scuttled last year after the companies decided to only face off in US court.

Still, the war continues in the US. Last year, Apple won an additional $119.6 million in a separate infringement case. That case proved to not be as one-sided as the decision in 2012. Apple had sought far more in damages and asked US District Court Judge Lucy Koh who has presided over the cases, to ban the sale of Samsung's allegedly infringing products. Judge Koh denied the request, saying that "Apple has not demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm to its reputation or goodwill as an innovator without an injunction."

That case is currently in appeals.

Looking ahead, Samsung hasn't said how it will handle the court's ruling on Thursday. While the company may attempt to go to the Supreme Court, actually getting the highest court in the land to hear the case could prove extremely difficult, given the high number of cases it turns down each year. Opting to pay may ultimately be the quickest solution, if Samsung wants to put the case behind it.