Apple v. Samsung is SCOTUS's First Design Patent Case in 122 Years

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it would agree to hear part of an appeal filed by Samsung seeking to overturn a $548 million damages award granted to Apple last year. Aside from finally closing the door on this five-year saga between Apple and Samsung, SCOTUS’s decision is newsworthy because it’s the first case before the Court involving design patents since 1894. See Dunlop v. Schofield, 152 U.S. 244 (1894).

The Court agreed to hear arguments regarding whether Samsung is liable for all profits from the sale of phones that infringed on Apple’s design patents, totaling $399 million dollars, or whether they are liable only for the portion of those profits attributable to the role those protected design elements played in actual phone sales.

Back in 2012, pursuant to a jury verdict, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Samsung to pay 100% of its profits to Apple from the sale of seven different phone models that were found to infringe on Apple’s design patents. The lower court’s ruling on this issue was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit in May of last year. 

In its petition, Samsung argued that this award was “ridiculous” for not taking into account how much or how little the protected design elements contributed to the sales of Samsung’s products. Samsung also cited in its petition that the Circuit Court agreed with this notion, but stated it was compelled to uphold the lower court ruling pursuant to the Section 289 of the Patent Act. See Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., et al., Petitioners v. Apple Inc., 15-777, Petition for a writ of certiorari filed (U.S. Dec. 14, 2015).

While the Supreme Court agreed to rule on this issue, it declined to take up the other issues raised in Samsung’s petition, such as whether the scope of design patents includes smartphone technology.

Nicknamed the “smartphone patent wars”, the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung stretches back to 2011. See the full Apple v. Samsung docket here.

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Tara Klamrowski is the director of IP content at One400. She writes about current IP issues, IP trends, and how Docket Alarm can help attorneys and their clients achieve success.

Docket Alarm is a legal research and analytics platform that helps attorneys better estimate their chances of winning and with preparation of tactical strategies. Sign up for Docket Alarm at today. 

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