HLF Amicus Brief in Apple v. Samsung

Awarding excessive damages stands to hurt consumers

Recently, the Hispanic Leadership Fund filed an amicus brief with the Northern California Federal Court of Appeals on the matter of $930 million in financial damages awarded to Apple for a smartphone design infringement case it brought against Samsung. If upheld, the ruling could reduce consumer choice in the marketplace, increase costs, and limit functionality of mobile devices—all of which would have an especially negative impact on the Hispanic community.

Latinos are particularly likely to use a smartphone or tablet to access the Internet and online resources. A Pew Research study last year found the rate of smartphone ownership is growing among Latino adults faster than other demographic groups, and more than three out of four use a mobile device to go online. A full 16 percent of Latinos identify their smartphone as their only point of access to the Internet.

Greater access to affordable high-tech mobile devices has helped close the “digital divide” and has given the Hispanic community better access to important online resources. Today, Latinos are likely to use their mobile device to access government services and participate in civic activity; engage in classroom learning; access healthcare resources; and pursue business opportunities.

The excessive damages awarded to Apple, which centered on exaggerated claims of the patents’ real value, will inevitably limit competition in the smartphone marketplace, which in turn will increase costs, and reduce consumer options and services. For the Hispanic community, which relies on competitive, affordable products, this will curtail the positive trends of recent years in closing the technology adoption gap between Latinos and other demographics.

Patent protections are critical to ensure an innovative and dynamic marketplace, and HLF is committed to promoting free enterprise and market competition. We believe a vibrant marketplace in which companies can compete fairly is the best way to get consumers products they want and need to improve their quality of life.

However, authorities must be judicious and not to allow companies to abuse those same provisions to preclude competition. The damages awarded far exceed the nature of the infringement and the value of the insignificant design patents in question—in fact, the Court cited no example of harm done to the brand itself. 

We hope the court will take into account the harmful effects of those damages and take proper action.

Read the Hispanic Leadership Fund’s Full Amicus Brief here