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Apple v. Samsung rematch put on hold as Supreme Court steps in

The damages retrial was slated to start Monday but has been delayed until the Supreme Court decides the case.

© Action Images

Looks like delaying Apple court sessions is becoming a trend.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh late Tuesday granted Samsung's motion to put a damages retrial on hold until the Supreme Court can review the case. The trial was scheduled to start Monday in San Jose, California, and would have taken about a week.

The delay comes only a couple days after a court showdown between Apple and the FBI, slated for Tuesday, was called off. And the pause clears the path for the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision in this long-running patent dispute.

Samsung filed a motion with the Supreme Court in December asking it to re-examine the patent infringement case after losing in court to Apple. As a result of the trial, Samsung has to pay Apple $548 million in damages. The Supreme Court granted that motion Monday, the first time it has considered a design patent case since the 1800s. It likely will consider the case later this year.

Samsung requested that next week's damages retrial be put on hold to avoid a possible fourth trial and "avoid potentially duplicative and wasteful proceedings."

The company on Wednesday said "we believed it was important to stay the retrial until the Supreme Court issues its ruling, and the district court agreed."

Apple declined to comment Wednesday. Apple's attorneys had opposed the motion to stay the trial, saying "moving forward with proceedings in this case would promote the orderly course of justice." Apple also sought to argue how much time and work it has put into preparing for the trial.

A decision by the Supreme Court could have a ripple effect across the technology industry and ultimately impact the gadgets you buy because it could finally define the value of design work. For that reason, the case has drawn the attention of a wide number of legal experts, nonprofit groups and technology companies. Together, they filed six amicus, or "friend of the court," briefs in support of Samsung, urging the Supreme Court to consider the case.

Some of Silicon Valley's biggest players, including Google and Facebook, argued in the amicus briefs that the lower-court ruling as it stands could have a "devastating impact" on the introduction of new products due to a heightened fear of legal challenges. Apple has said all along that it was doing what was necessary to defend its intellectual property and the value of its blockbuster iPhone franchise.

Samsung wants the Supreme Court to give guidance on what is covered by design patents, which protect the way an item is used and how it works and also include what damages can be collected.

The original Apple vs. Samsung trial in 2012 pitted a pair of the world's largest tech companies against each other. The case captivated Silicon Valley and the tech industry because it exposed the inner workings of two notoriously secretive companies. It was just one of many such trials around the world as the rivals sparred both in the marketplace and in the courtroom. At issue were design patents for a black, rectangular, round-cornered front face; a similar rectangular round-cornered front face plus the surrounding rim, known as the bezel; and a colorful grid of 16 icons.