On Tuesday, December 6, 2016, In the Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Et al v. Apple Inc. case, case number 15-777, the U.S. Supreme Court, reversed a Federal Circuit ruling that found that Samsung must pay its profit from the entire phones found to infringe Apple’s design patents, which covered the front face of the phones and the arrangement of icons on the home screen.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that owners of design patents are not always entitled to the total profits from the infringing product sold to consumers. In this case, the device has multiple components and thus the award may be limited to those specific features that infringed.
Chief Justice John Roberts also commented that “It seems to me that the design is applied to the exterior case of the phone. It’s not applied to all the chips and wires… so there shouldn’t be profits awarded based on the entire price of the phone.”
Apple did not dispute that it is entitled to profits only from the infringing articles of manufacture, but said that Samsung bared the burden to prove that the relevant article of manufacture was something less than the entire smartphone and failed to do that. The Supreme Court did not resolve whether, for each of the design patents at issue in the case, the article of manufacture was the smartphone or a component of the phone. This issue has been left to the Federal Circuit on remand.
The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Numbers D593,087, D604,305 and D618,677. The case is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. et al. v. Apple Inc., case number 15-777, in the U.S. Supreme Court.