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US judge may cut Samsung damages

Seoul (The Koreal Herald/ANN) - Samsung Electronics Co. may walk away paying less in damages for infringing some of Apple Inc.'s most critical patents.

Judge Lucy Koh, the US federal judge hearing the trial, said that although the jury that delivered the original verdict was precise and consistent in calculating infringement damages for 28 different Samsung products, the method the members used may have been mistaken.

She was quoted as saying that her decisions may take weeks or months to finalise, adding that she is planning to issue orders in installments, organised by subject matter.

In August, a nine-member panel at a San Jose court reached the verdict for Samsung to pay Apple US$1.05 billion to compensate for copying six of its patents.

Samsung, however, claims that the jury used some incorrect legal standards in determining the amount. The company consequently believes the damages should be reduced by more than US$600 million, according to its attorneys.

Apple, on the other hand, is seeking US$535 million more, given the jury found that Samsung infringed Apple's patents "willfully." The company also said if Koh approves a sales ban, it will ask her to extend the order to cover newer Samsung products.

The Cupertino-based company's argument is that the benefits of using intellectual property from the iPhone and the iPad actually outweigh the damages it was awarded. In a court filing, Apple also said that Samsung intended to take away Apple's market share by deliberately copying the iPhone.

Experts also said it seems unlikely for the original verdict to be completely overturned, but suggested that the damages could be adjusted.

Brian Love, an assistant professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, told the media that while he would expect the judge to apply the law very strictly, Samsung's argument that some damages were improperly calculated was "strong."

Another issue to watch for will be whether any of the Samsung products that the jury earlier found to be infringing Apple's patents will be banned from the markets.

Kathleen Sullivan, lawyer for Samsung, pointed out that out of 26 Samsung products that Apple wants covered by a US sales ban, only three are still being sold.

The judge also heard Samsung's argument that the verdict should be thrown out because of alleged misconduct by the jury's foreman. Samsung alleges that the jury foreman, Velvin Hogan, lied about lawsuits he was involved in, and that he was partly responsible for producing a faulty verdict from the jury.

Other possibilities for how the trial will unfold include a bigger money damage award granted to Apple, which many see as unlikely.

"In this case, the jury found that Samsung had 'willfully' infringed Apple's patents. Under Sections 284-85 of the US Patent Act, this means that the judge can award 'punitive' damages up to three times the amount of 'actual' damages plus attorneys' fees. Thus, the damage award against Samsung could be more than tripled if the judge decides to do so. Personally, I would be surprised if Judge Koh awarded significant enhanced damages in this case," said Jorge Contreras, co-chairman of the National Conference of Lawyers and Scientists.

Samsung and Apple have locked horns over smartphone and tablet design patents for over a year since Apple first filed a lawsuit against its South Korean rival in April last year.

The outcome of the high-stakes patent litigation between the pair will be significant for both sides as they compete for the top slot in the global smart device market.

Both sides have indicated that they will not back down if a settlement cannot be reached. Outside of the US, such as in the UK, Samsung has been more successful in defending its claims.

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