Thursday, October 13, 2016

Supreme Court - Apple v. Samsung - SCOTUS Blog - Justices cautious about resolving Samsung-Apple dispute over design of cell phones

Professor Ronald Mann's blog post Justices cautious about resolving Samsung-Apple dispute over design of cell phones indicates the Supreme Court was unsettled at the oral hearing on the legal standard to apply to the $400 million damages awarded for Samsung's infringement of Apple's design patents.

The case turns on the proper interpretation of 35 USC 289 stating: "whoever during the term of a patent for a design, without license of the owner, (1) applies the patented design ... to any article of manufacture for the purpose of sale, or (2) sells or exposes for sale any article of manufacture to which such design or colorable imitation has been applied shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit ...."

As Professor Mann stated: "The issue is whether the 'article of manufacture' to which the infringing design feature has been applied is the cell phone itself (as the court of appeals concluded) or some difficult-to-specify subsidiary portion of the phone, perhaps the case or exterior."

The Federal Circuit previously decided the article of manufacture is Samsung's phone, but all at the Supreme court hearing seem to agree it's too much to conclude "the article of manufacture" for calculating profits is the entire phone. We have the infringement of design patents that show the exterior screen and case. Should that infringement include the value of thousand of features in the software/hardware inside? I don't think so but it is also important to consider what drove the sale. I think just talking about how much physical structure is shown in the design patent misses this. Whatever way you come out, I think design patent damages is important to fairly resolve in an environment where injunctive relief is not awarded even when a competitor appears to have applied design patent to its product.

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