Samsung’s $1 billion award to Apple cut by almost half

SAN JOSE, Calif. – A federal judge on Friday erased nearly half of the $1 billion in damages a jury decided Samsung Electronics should pay Apple in a high-profile trial over the rights to the design and technology running some of the world’s most popular smartphones and tablet computers.

U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh lowered the damages awarded to Apple Inc. by $450.5 million, saying jurors had not properly followed her instruction in calculating some of the damages. She also concluded mistakes had been made in determining when Apple had first notified Samsung about the alleged violations of patents for its trend-setting iPhone and iPad.

Koh also ordered a new trial on Apple’s allegations that Samsung stole its ideas for more than a dozen smartphones and tablet computers that include several models in Samsung’s hot-selling Galaxy line-up.

Oil price decline could bring drivers some relief

NEW YORK – Oil fell Friday to its lowest level of the year on worrisome economic developments in the world’s two largest oil-consuming nations.

The price of crude fell 1.5 percent and is down 6 percent in two weeks. That should allow drivers to catch their breath after a record rise in gas prices over the first two months of the year.

The average price for a gallon of gas rose 49 cents from Jan. 1 through the end of February, AAA said, eclipsing last year’s increase of 46 cents in the same period.

Oil dropped close to $90 a barrel Friday as the prospect of U.S. government spending cuts raised concerns about oil demand in the world’s leading economy. In addition, China’s manufacturing grew at its weakest rate in five months in February.

Benchmark crude for April delivery fell $1.37 to close at $90.68 a barrel in New York. Oil last closed below $91 in New York on Dec. 28.

Penney CEO’s emails suggest aim to break deal

NEW YORK – It’s been a tough week to be Ron Johnson. J.C. Penney’s CEO was in the hot seat again on Friday in New York State Supreme Court after facing investors this week over a dismal quarterly earnings performance.

This time he was being scrutinized by Macy’s lawyers for a stack of emails he wrote that they claim show he pushed Martha Stewart to try to break an exclusive deal with his rival so Penney could be the sole department store distributor of the home diva’s goods.

“I need to propose a deal so she can go to Terry Lundgren at Macy’s and break the agreement,” according to one email Johnson wrote to an executive at Penney in August 2011. Lundgren is CEO of Macy’s.

Penney ended up signing a pact in December 2011 with Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia to open shops at most of its stores in spring 2013. But one month later, Macy’s renewed its long-standing exclusive deal to sell some of Martha Stewart’s products, and then sued Martha Stewart Living and Penney.

The trial focuses on whether Macy’s has the exclusive right to sell some of Martha Stewart branded products.

— From news service reports