WASHINGTON • The United States Supreme Court overturned a US$399 million (S$566 million) patent infringement penalty imposed on Samsung for copying Apple's iPhone design, in a case watched for its implications for technology innovation.
The justices, in a 8-0 ruling on Tuesday, found that Samsung should not be required to forfeit the entire profit from its smartphones for infringement on design components. The case now goes back to a lower court.
The ruling could curb litigation from patent holders seeking to reap big profits from infringements on parts, analysts said.
A jubilant Samsung hailed the "victory for Samsung and for all those who promote creativity, innovation and fair competition in the marketplace".
The 11-page ruling found that the US$399 million penalty - one element of a major patent infringement case - was inappropriate because it represented "Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing smartphones" for copying the iPhone's "rectangular front face with rounded edges and a grid of colourful icons on a black screen".
This case is one element of the US$548 million penalty - knocked down from an original US$1 billion jury award - Samsung was ordered to pay for copying iPhone patents.
There has been keen interest in the case, to see how the court would tip the balance between technological innovation and protecting intellectual property.
Mr Dennis Crouch, a University of Missouri law professor and co-director of the Centre for Intellectual Property and Entrepreneurship, said the ruling may leave both sides disappointed.
"Although the case offers hope for Samsung and others adjudged of infringing design patents, it offers no clarity as to the rule of law," he said in a blog .
Samsung won the backing of Silicon Valley and other IT giants, including Google and Facebook. Apple was supported by big names in fashion and manufacturing.
On the verdict, an Apple spokesman, in an e-mail, said: "Our case has always been about Samsung's blatant copying of our ideas, and that was never in dispute... We remain optimistic that the lower courts will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn't right."