Supreme Court Signals Shift in Approach to Damages in Design Patent Infringement Cases

In its first design patent case in over a century, the Supreme Court on Tuesday, December 6, 2016, reversed a damages award Apple Inc. (“Apple”) had won over Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (“Samsung”) in their protracted patent battle.  The design patents at issue were directed to certain elements of Apple’s iPhone.  The Court focused its attention on the meaning of the term “article of manufacture,” suggesting that the Federal Circuit’s definition, which encompassed the entire phone, might be too broad.  Instead, the Court determined that “article of manufacture” could be limited to a particular component of a product, regardless of whether that component is severable (or sold separately) from the product as a whole.  Declining to decide how much money Apple was entitled to under this new interpretation, the Court remanded the case to the Federal Circuit for further proceedings.

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By: Jason A. Engel, Gina A. Jenero, Jacob C. Vannette

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