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Slide-to-Unlock Verdict Re-Affirmed: Samsung Owes Apple $120M

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 11, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the slide-to-unlock legal saga that started years ago between tech leaders Samsung and Apple, the Federal Appeals Court reversed the prior appellate decision, reinstating the $120 million verdict against Samsung. The two tech giants are gearing up for an even bigger battle this week before the Supreme Court on an unrelated patent infringement case dating back to 2011.

The slide-to-unlock case, originally decided in May 2014, had a federal jury award Apple $119.6 million for Samsung's infringement of their the slide-to-unlock, autocorrect, and quick-link feature patents. After the verdict, Samsung appealed, and the Appeals Court overturned the jury's verdict, however this year, the same Appeals Court reversed the prior ruling, reinstating the jury's verdict.

In this legal battle, Apple asserted that the slide-to-unlock feature, which Apple's latest operating system no longer uses, was properly patented by the company, and that Samsung used the same or similar technology, which infringed upon Apple's patent. In addition to the unlock feature, Apple also won on their claims that Samsung copied Apple's autocorrect and quick-link features.

The autocorrect feature corrects what users type into the phone as users type. Autocorrect is the feature that made touchscreen phones more usable compared to the non-touchscreen phones they have essentially replaced. The quick-link feature involves the software's ability to detect a phone number on a webpage or in an email, and automatically turn that phone number into a clickable link that allows a user to call that number by simply clicking.

Although these features seem rudimentary today, this lawsuit was filed back in 2011, only a few short years after smart phones like the iPhone and galaxy had been released.

Bigger Battles on the Horizon

While the $120 million dollar verdict is a significant win in the war between Apple and Samsung, it is just one of many battles. Both are getting ready for an even bigger, nearly half-a-billion-dollar, fight at the Supreme Court this season. The two industry leaders are squaring off over the damages issue in the big design patent lawsuit where Apple alleged that Samsung copied the iPhone's design when designing their smartphone line.

While the issue of whether Samsung copied the iPhone has been finally decided in Apple's favor, and Samsung has already paid the judgment, the Supreme Court is being asked to decide whether the half-billion dollar judgment was reasonable under the law. If the Supreme Court finds the judgment was not reasonable, they may either order Apple to pay back part of the judgment, or have the case remanded to the District Court in order to decide how much should be awarded based on their instructions.

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