The Samsung v Apple battle gives way to landmark decision on design patents


On 12 December 2016, Samsung and Apple gave way to a land mark case regarding US design patents. The US Supreme Court has held that where a multi component product is concerned, damages may be calculated on the basis of one only component of that product, and not on the basis of the whole end product sold to the consumer. 

This is the decision of the most recent design case in the continuous Samsung v Apple battle, in which Samsung was condemned to pay millions in damages for infringing specific elements of Apple's iPhone design patent.

On December 2015, Samsung was forced to pay Apple the total sum of profits from 19 Samsung products considered to infringe on Apple patents (which summed up to 548 million USD).  However, Samsung wasn't found guilty of copying the iPhone as a singular invention, but rather guilty of infringing upon three specific design patents, in particular: the rounded corners on the front of the iPhone, the rounded corners along with a rounded bezel of the iPhone and a grid of app icons seen in iOS.

Samsung appealed the decision, alleging that the individual patents were not worth the claimed 548 million USD.  The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samsung, claiming that the "article of manufacture" addressed within a design parent does not need to be a complete product.  Instead, the article of manufacture can be just part of a product; and that consequently, the patent holder would be entitled to just part of the profits.  

The Supreme Court has now sent the case back down to the Federal Circuit, which is in charge of dictating how design patents play out in court.  The Federal Circuit will now have to devise a new approach to proving the value of individual design patents, changing drastically how design patents will be treated in the US Courts in the future.

See the Supreme Court decision here:



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