WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- It appears the U.S. Supreme Court could be leaning in favor of Samsung in the electronics giant's appeal of a recent legal victory handed to competitor Apple.
The high court began hearing the appeal on Tuesday, concerning a lower court's ruling that Samsung must pay Apple $400 million for infringing on the iPhone design patent.
During Tuesday's arguments, Supreme Court justices questioned whether the award was calculated correctly.
A lower court based the $400 million penalty on profits from the phones, which are based on their selling prices. In other words, lower courts said Apple is entitled to all of Samsung's profits for the phones that supposedly violated the patent -- even though there are no infringements concerning the internal workings of the Samsung phones.
And since the purported design infraction applies only to the phone exterior, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned Tuesday why Apple should get profits from the entire phone -- exterior design and inner workings.
Roberts' assessment encapsulated Samsung's position in the matter.
"That makes no sense," Samsung attorney Kathleen Sullivan argued, echoing Roberts' questions.
"In other words, even if the patented features contributed 1 percent of the value of Samsung's phones, Apple gets 100 percent of Samsung's profits," she wrote in a legal brief.
Justice Anthony Kennedy also expressed doubt that consumers buy Samsung's phones simply because of the way the exterior looks, and nothing else.
Lawyers for both sides and justices appear to agree that what must be determined is exactly what "article of manufacture" is covered by Apple's patent -- and that's a question there is no clear answer to yet.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a ruling in the case in the coming weeks.