Supreme Court Clears Up Design Patent Case

BY Heather Greenfield
December 6, 2016

Washington — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that a lower court made a mistake when it awarded all Samsung’s profits on several smartphone models to Apple based on design patent infringement. The Justices said design patent infringement can impact just a component of a product, not necessarily the entire product. The decision is likely to mean the lower court will modify its original award of nearly $400 million to Apple.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association filed an amicus brief arguing for the interpretation eventually adopted by the Court.

The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“This was a pivotal court case for the technology industry and it is encouraging to see the law interpreted and applied in a way that makes sense in a modern era and protects both inventors and innovation. The lower court’s interpretation of design patents, which allowed someone to sue based on an ornamental feature and reap the entire profits of someone else’s product, would have had a chilling effect on investment and the development of products – especially in the tech sector.”

The following can be attributed to CCIA patent counsel Matt Levy:

“Over the last decade, the Supreme Court has reversed the Federal Circuit about 80% of the time. Based on the questions asked during oral arguments in October, it looked likely the Justices would again modify a Federal Circuit decision, this time on design patents. The Court was asked to decide the scope of the so-called article of manufacture; it held that the Federal Circuit was wrong to say the article must always mean the entire end product sold to consumers. We are pleased to see that the Court correctly interpreted the law and did so unanimously. The outcome is one that will help bring the design patent statute into the modern electronic age. This ruling now means the Federal Circuit will have to fashion a test to determine the correct article of manufacture.”

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