In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruledon Tuesday in favor of Samsung in their ongoing case against Apple over design patent damages. The Court’s decision reversed an earlier ruling by the Federal Circuit that awarded Apple $399 million in damages.
The central argument in the case was over the language of 35 U.S.C. §289, which stated that a defendant found infringing on a patented “article of manufacture” was “liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit.” See Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc., 580 U.S. ___ (2016).
The court held that the term “article of manufacture” should not necessarily be construed to mean only an end product sold to consumers, but could also be construed more broadly to mean infringing components of a product. This means that Apple’s damages award could be calculated based on Samsung’s profits resulting from individual infringing components of smartphones, instead of being calculated from Samsung’s profits from the sales of infringing smartphones as a whole. However, the Court left the issue of which level of damages to apply in this case to the lower courts.
Apple’s $399 million damages award constituted all of Samsung’s profits from selling infringing phones. A lower court could now potentially reduce this award pursuant to the Supreme Court’s holding.
This decision is the latest chapter in the ongoing patent wars between Samsung and Apple that encompasses cases dating back to 2011. In addition to being part of a high profile litigation battle between two tech giants, this case is also noteworthy for being the first design patent case the Supreme Court has heard in over a century.
You can view the entire Samsung v. Apple docket on Docket Alarm here: