Apple and Samsung settle their epic patent infringement battle

Why Apple could be the first $1 trillion company
Why Apple could be the first $1 trillion company

Apple and Samsung just ended their epic seven-year legal patent infringement fight.

The two companies agreed to a settlement in the case, according to court documents filed Wednesday, but did not disclose the terms.

The settlement closes a dispute that started in 2011 when Apple accused Samsung (SSNLF) of "slavishly" copying the iPhone's design and software features. A jury awarded Apple (AAPL) $539 million in May, leaving Samsung with an outstanding balance of $140 million it owed Apple. It was not clear Wednesday how much more, if anything, Apple will receive.

Litigating the case cost the two world's two largest smartphone makers hundreds of millions of dollars and resulted in several rulings and appeals. In 2012, a jury ruled that Samsung must pay Apple more than $1 billion for copying various hardware and software features of the iPhone and iPad. A federal judge later reduced that penalty by $450 million.

Their fight eventually landed in the Supreme Court, which in 2016 reversed an appeals court ruling that Samsung must pay $399 million for patent infringement. Justices sent the case back to the lower court to sort out the financial penalty.

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A representative for Apple declined to comment beyond referring CNNMoney to a statement the company released last month following the jury award.

"This case has always been about more than money," the company said at the time. "Apple ignited the smartphone revolution with iPhone and it is a fact that Samsung blatantly copied our design. It is important that we continue to protect the hard work and innovation of so many people at Apple."

Samsung declined to comment.

Ultimately, jurors found Samsung had infringed on the majority of the patents in question -- including software features like double-tap zooming and scrolling. Many devices also infringed on hardware style or icon setup. Although "Apple won most of the battles," Samsung found way to "design around" the patents Apple claimed it copied, said Michael Risch, a patent law professor at Villanova University.

"One lesson is consumers will drive tech more than patents. Samsung went where it thought consumers wanted ... and Apple stayed with its distinctive smaller shape for a much longer period than Samsung," Risch said. "Sometimes patent can drive innovation in ways we may not have expected."

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