How A 131-Year-Old Case Involving Carpet Set The Stage For Tuesday's Supreme Court Showdown Between Samsung And Apple

Way back in 1885, Jon and James Dobson, two carpet makers, were accused of copying designs from other carpet makers, including Hartford Carpet and Bigelow Carpet.

According to the BBC, the Dobsons were taken to court by Hartford and Bigelow and the case was heard at the Supreme Court, which agreed the Dobsons stole designs and tried to sell them off as their own.

The problem was that the judges couldn't determine an appropriate fee since the design of a carpet is merely a small part of the overall carpet. For instance, a carpet can look beautiful but if designer poorly and isn't comfortable then it is unlikely to sell.

Hartford and Bigelow received a fee of six cents each from the Dobsons for stealing their design.

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Orville Platt, a senator from Connecticut lobbied Congress to make changes to the Patent Act to ensure that design patents are given more weight. By 1887, changes were written into law.

Why Does This Matter?

Fast forward 130 years and Apple Inc. AAPL and rival SAMSUNG ELECTRONIC KRW5000 SSNLF are arguing over the same thing.

Apple accused Samsung in 2011 of being the "Dobsons" and copying several aspects of the iPhone design, which were used in their own smartphones.

A court agreed with Apple's claims last year and based on Senator Platt's changes to the patent law, Samsung was forced to pay all of the profits it made in damages or $250, whichever amount is higher.

Samsung ended up paying Apple $548 million but now the South-Korea based company feels it should be given back at least $399 million of that amount.

Similar to the carpets, Samsung is making the argument that the design of a phone isn't the only factor consumers consider when buying a phone. A lot of hardware and software are at work inside the phone and this also influences consumers' decisions.

Samsung will make its case to the Supreme Court but a final decision isn't expected until June 2017.

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Posted In: Apple Versus SamsungOrville PlattpatentPatent LawsSamsung PatentsNewsEventsTechMedia