Tag: supreme court

Supremes back Samsung against Apple

supremesThe US Supreme Court backed Samsung in the great battle over the rounded rectangle smartphone.

It threw out an appeals court ruling that the South Korean company had to pay a $399 million penalty to its American rival for copying key iPhone designs.

The 8-0 ruling, written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, held that a patent violator does not always have to fork over its entire profits from the sales of products using stolen designs, if the designs covered only certain components and not the whole thing.

The justices sent the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington to determine how much Samsung must pay. But they did not provide a road map to juries and lower courts on how to navigate similar disputes in the future.

Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock said in a statement that the U.S. company remained “optimistic that the lower courts will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn’t right”.

Samsung said that the ruling was a “victory for Samsung and for all those who promote creativity, innovation and fair competition in the marketplace”.

For those who came in in late a 2012 jury verdict favoured the tax-dodging cargo cult and hit Samsung initially with nearly $930 million in penalties, later cut by $382 million, for infringing Apple’s iPhone patents and mimicking its distinctive “rounded rectangle” appearance.

Samsung in December 2015 paid its Cupertino, California-based rival $548 million but Samsung took the matter to the Supreme Court, saying it should not have had to make $399 million of that payout for copying the patented designs of the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and colourful grid of icons that represent programs and applications.

Apple wanted more cash because Samsung presented no evidence that the article of manufacture in this case was anything less than its entire smartphone as sold. Samsung, meanwhile, said that it did not have to present such evidence as it was bloody obvious.

Samsung argued that it should not have had to turn over all its profits, saying that design elements contributed only marginally to a complex product with thousands of patented features.

The Supremes agreed completely and said that the term “article of manufacture was broad enough to encompass both a product sold to a consumer as well as a component of that product”.

The justices nevertheless refused to devise a test for juries and lower courts to use to discern what a relevant article of manufacture is in a case, a task that could be fraught with difficulty when considering high-tech products.

Supremes snub Google

supremesThe Supreme Court rejected Google’s bid to throw out a class action lawsuit involving claims that the company deceived California advertisers about the placement of Internet ads through iAdwords.

By deciding not to hear the case, the Supremes leave in place a September 2015 ruling by the San Francisco-based ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals that the litigation could move forward as a class action representing advertisers who used the service between 2004 and 2008.

The 2008 lawsuit said that Google violated California fair advertising laws because it misled advertisers about where the ads would be placed. The Adwords service places next to relevant Google Internet search results. However, the plaintiffs said Google should have warned them that ads would also appear in undesirable places such as error pages and undeveloped websites known as parked domains.

A federal district court judge in 2012 ruled that the case could not move forward as a class action because each advertiser would receive different damages, as each advertiser would have paid a different sum for the ads in question. The appeals court reversed the district court, prompting Google to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.

Supremes tell Apple to shut up and face the music

The_Supremes_-_The_Supremes_Sing_Holland-Dozier-HollandThe highest court in the US has told the fruity cargo cult that Steve Jobs really was a monopolist who set up price cartel and it is going to have to deal with the consequences of his actions.

The Supreme Court officially declined to hear Apple challenge to an appellate court decision that it conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices, meaning it will have to pay $450 million as part of a settlement.

The Supreme’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a June 2015 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found Apple liable for engaging in a conspiracy that violated federal antitrust laws.

Apple trotted out its usual line saying that it didn’t do anything, and even it it did it should be allowed to do what it liked otherwise “chill innovation and risk-taking.”

The 2nd Circuit’s ruling followed a 2013 decision by US District Judge Denise Cote that Apple played a “central role” in a conspiracy with publishers to raise e-book prices.

The Justice Department said the scheme caused some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from the $9.99 price previously charged by market leader Amazon.com.

Bill Baer, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division said that Apple’s liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all.

Publishers that the Justice Department said conspired with Apple include Lagardere, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan.

Apple and the publishers agreed on an arrangement in which Apple would get a 30 percent commission and publishers were allowed to set the prices for their books, a tactic known as “agency pricing” that prevents discounting.

The publishers also agreed they would charge all outlets the same amount, meaning Amazon was forced to raise its prices. E-books that had cost $9.99 suddenly cost $12.99 or $14.99.

Amazon said in a statement it was “ready to distribute the court-mandated settlement funds to Kindle customers as soon as it is told to do so.”

Supremes refuse to touch file-sharing case

The US Supreme Court has refused to touch a filesharing case where a student was fined $675,000 for illegally downloading and sharing 30 songs on the internet.

Joel Tenenbaum, 28, of Providence, Rhode Island, said he still hopes that a federal judge will reduce the amount.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Tenenbaum said he still could not understand how the US justice sytem would uphold a six-figure damages amount for downloading 30 songs on a file-sharing system that everybody used.

A jury in 2009 ordered Tenenbaum to pay $675,000, after the RIAA sued him on behalf of four record labels.

A federal judge called the penalty unconstitutionally excessive and reduced the award to $67,500. But the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals later reinstated it.

The 1st Circuit said a new judge assigned to the case could reduce the award again, but the record labels would then be entitled to a new trial.

Tenenbaum said he doesn’t have the money to pay the judgement because he has been a student for six years.

His argument is that the US Copyright Act is unconstitutional and that Congress did not intend the law to impose liability or damages when the copyright infringements amount to “consumer copying.”

During the trial, Tenenbaum admitted he downloaded music from Green Day, Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and others.

His lawyer suggested the damages should be as little as 99 cents per song, about the same amount Tenenbaum would have to pay for a legal online song purchase.

However, Big Content argued that illegal downloading hurt the recording industry by reducing income and profits and since Tenenbaum was a “hardcore” copyright infringer he should help keep Big Content executives in swimming pools and the odd Rolex or two for Christmas.

The association said it offered to settle the case for $5,000. 

Government loses solar subsidy fight

The government has lost its battle to cut solar subsidies, with the Supreme Court upholding a ruling that the premature cuts were unlawful. 

Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Secretary Edward Davey claimed the government was “disappointed” at the court’s decision, while the solar industry claimed its victory at last.

The government had attempted to enforce halving solar subsidy feed in tariffs (FITs) before a consultation had been completed, coming into effect in December rather than in April as planned.

While the government argued that the costly subsidies were unsustainable, it was a move which had the solar industry and environmental agencies up in arms. 

Legal action by organisations such as Friends of the Earth was then taken against DECC, with the High Court ruling that the department had acted unlawfully.

Despite drawing criticism for creating confusion among the public, and throwing the growing photovoltaic panel industry into chaos, the government vowed to press its case. The lengthy battle involved rejected government appeals culminating in a last ditch effort to plead its case to the Supreme Court.

However, it was announced today that its fight was over with the government losing yet another appeal.

While Davey was disappointed he said that the court’s decision “draws a line under the case”.

“We will now focus all our efforts on ensuring the future stability and cost effectiveness of solar and other microgeneration technologies for the many, not the few,” he said in a statement. 

The Solar Trade Association was also keen to see an end to the solar spat, claiming that the ruling “marks the end of this particular turbulent chapter for the UK solar sector”.

While the battle may have been won, STA chief Steve Barwell admitted that the war over FITs is still in the government’s hands. He welcomed the certainty “for those who invested and installed since 12thDecember”, but he highlighted “serious concerns” about the FIT bedget

”It is vital that the solar industry receives sufficient support, or we risk losing good quality firms over the next year,” he said.

Supreme Court demands warrants for GPS tracking

In a blow to Obama’s increasingly heavy-handed, invasive administration, the Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement agencies must require a warrant before they are able to monitor vehicles via GPS devices.

Luckily for law enforcement agencies, they can probably phone up their friends at Apple who will do them the favour. In a statement, reports David Kravets in Wired’s ThreatLevel blog,  Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the “government’s installation of a GPS device on a target’s vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a ‘search’.”

However, it seems there’s some confusion about using GPS monitors in the short-term. Four in the Supreme Court agreed that using GPS devices for surveillance purposes in the long term does require a warrant, but maintained an air of silence about tracking over a longer spell. 

The whole debate began because a nightclub owner was suspected of drug trafficking. FBI spooks tried a range of tactics but eventually got Antoine Jones by fitting a GPS device into his car.

They tracked him for a full 28 days, even rushing in to change the device’s battery on one occasion, ultimately producing over 2,000 pages worth of information. Jones was charged with intent to supply five kilograms of cocaine and over 50 grams of cocaine base. 

But because the FBI thought the rules didn’t apply to attaching tracking kits to people’s cars, the justices threw out Jones’ life sentence in the end, according to Wired.

The government, throughout the case, admitted to the Supreme Court that it has been tracking thousands of Americans by GPS tracking each year – because it is a vital tactic to tackle crime. Which is why, the US government says, it is leaning on the Court to rethink its position.

Supremes reject challenge to Tessera win

Popular beat combo, turned US legal executive arm, the Supremes have refused to change a patent-infringement victory for Tessera Technologies which had sued several tech companies at the US International Trade Commission.

The case is connected to two Tessera patents associated with packaging computer chips.

In 2009 the ITC decided that the Tessera patents were valid, and it told Qualcomm, Spansion, STMicroelectronics, Freescale Semiconductor and ATI to stop bringing them into the US.

According to the Wall Street Journal,  the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit confirmed the ITC decision last December. The defendant companies asked the Supreme Court to review the case but the court on Monday rejected their appeals without saying why.

It is all getting way too elderly now. Two patents in the case have since expired so it is not going to stop the importing of any product. However it will mean that the outfits named in the case will have to start thinking about writing cheques, or checks as they call them in USland.

Tessera is seeking financial damages in several district courts and these cases had been put on hold while the ITC case went ahead.

Motorola is probably the only outfit which ever paid Tessera and signed a licensing agreement in 2009 to settle the litigation. It probably saved itself a lot of time and certainly a heap of angst, but the lawyers won’t have been that happy. 

Supreme Court shoots down violent gaming act

Lawmakers have put their foot down on the violent videogames debate.

The Supreme Court has sided with a previous decision by the Federal Court and ruled that the state of California is not allowed to ban selling or renting violent video games to children.

Had the court ruled in favour of the law, kids under 18 wouldn’t be able to buy or rent the so-called violent games. Retailers who flouted the laws would have been fined up to $1,000. 

The decision means the 2005 violent video game restrictions act will be thrown out, with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento going as far to say that the act had also violated free speech. 

“Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court.

The ruling could constrain at least 11 other states, including Florida, Mississippi and Texas, which have sided with the Californian court

According to the WSJ, over 46 million American households have at least one video game console. And the gaming industry in the US is huge, raking in at least $18 billion in 2010.

Ironically, according to the Sacramento Bee, the rules were first introduced and put forward by the Terminator-come-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. The argument was how to define and determine content as violent. While Tom and Jerry don’t take contract killings for the mob or pick up hookers in Grand Theft Barbera, they do hit each other in the face with anvils rather often.

Blogger not a journalist

The Supreme Court of New Jersey is set to give lawyers a field day by declaring that bloggers are not journalists and can’t claim the same level of legal protection.

The Supremes said that a blogger sued for defamation over comments posted on an Internet message board is not entitled to the same protections as a journalist, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, Shellee Hale penned a criticism of software outfit Too Much Media on a porn industry bulletin board.

Hale had accused the outfit, which provides software to adult entertainment sites, of profiting from a 2007 security breach that exposed customers’ personal information.

The outfit’s owners had threatened the lives of people who questioned their conduct and her posts appeared on the message board of Oprano, reportedly.

Hale claimed that her posts were part of a broader expose of the online pornography industry that she intended to publish on her website, Pornafia.

However the licensed private dick and former Vole created the site as an “information exchange” intended to expose criminal activity in the adult entertainment industry. Unfortunately the site never got off the ground.

The Supremes said that laws were intended to to give absolute privilege in defamation cases to people who post comments on message boards.

They said that anyone in the great unwashed could claim the journalist privilege and pen garbage on Facebook.

Online message boards are little more than unscreened reader comment pages or public forums for discussion, they said.

Hale’s lawyer, Jeffrey Pollock, said the ruling meant the court had taken a turn against the nontraditional journalist and people writing on the web.  He claimed that anyone writing for alternative media had a second class of protection.

Pollock had argued that the court should consider Hale’s intent to later disseminate the news to the public but said that was rubbish.

Joel Kreizman, a lawyer for Too Much Media, said the shield issue was important because it prevented him from asking Hale questions about the identity of her sources.

He claims she was a sock-puppet for someone else. 

Supremes allow music labels to face cartel charges

The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for a price fixing suit against the major music labels over online music to go ahead.

The lawsuit claims that the “Big Four” music labels Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony, and EMI hatched out a plan to fix pricing for online music downloads at $0.70 cents a song.

The music industry appealed a federal appeals court decision that the case could proceed to discovery and the Supremes said they were washing their hair, so the decision stands.

Kevin Starr brought the case against the record labels claiming that they conspired to set a minimum price of $0.70 per song then they began selling digital music downloads through subscription services like pressplay and MusicNet.

It has taken a long time for Starr to get the case to court. It was first presented in 2005. However, in 2008, a federal judge threw out the lawsuit saying that the plaintiffs had not presented enough facts for the claim to be considered at the summary judgement phrase or a trial.

The appeals court later reversed that decision, finding that the plaintiffs had presented enough information to move forward with the case. The record companies then appealed.

What happens next is that lawyers must still assemble their materials and evidence to enable the case to proceed further. It is fairly likely that the recording industry will do what it can to prevent as much material reaching the public eye as possible.

If the recording industry did fix prices, then it could make a huge mess for the online digital sales. A judge and jury might wonder what the price should have been before the cartel fixed it. They would then demand that the difference be refunded to the customer.