Apple deserved the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages Samsung Electronics paid for infringing patented designs of the iPhone because the product’s distinctive look drives people to purchase it, a group of design industry professionals told the US Supreme Court on Thursday.
Setting up a clash with a number of Silicon Valley companies that have come out on the side of Samsung, more than 100 designers and educators signed on to a new court brief supporting Apple.
They include famous fashion names Calvin Klein, Paul Smith, and Alexander Wang, the industrial design director at Parsons School of Design, the design director for Bentley Motors, and Tony Chambers, the editor-in-chief of Wallpaper magazine.
Samsung has appealed to the Supreme Court part of the $548 million it paid Apple last December related to a jury verdict from 2012. Samsung says the $399 million of that amount that was awarded for copying the designs of the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and grid of icons is excessive and contributed only marginally to a complex product.
Apple sued in 2011, claiming the South Korean electronics company stole its technology and ripped off the look of the iPhone.
Last May, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington upheld the 2012 patent infringement verdict. The court, however, said the iPhone’s appearance could not be protected through trademarks. Additional damages, based on five other phone models, could also be awarded depending on the outcome of appeals.
Samsung asked the Supreme Court to review the case, and in March, the justices agreed to examine whether the total profits from a product that infringes a design patent should be awarded if the patent applies only to a component of the product.
The designers on Thursday said that in the minds of consumers, the “look of the product comes to represent the underlying features, functions, and total user experience.”
Stealing a design can lead to a lost sale, and Apple deserves to be compensated for that with the infringer’s entire profits, they said.
Samsung has had a number of trade groups come out on its side, including The Internet Association as well as Silicon Valley heavyweights Facebook and Alphabet unit Google, which makes the Android operating system used in Samsung’s phones.
The groups say the Federal Circuit decision is dangerous to the technology industry because it could empower companies that make money by suing over design patents.
The case is Samsung v. Apple, in the Supreme Court of the United States, No. 15-777.