On December 6, 2016, in a unanimous opinion the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lower court’s $399 million judgment against Samsung for violating Apple’s design patents, which had awarded Apple damages based on the profits Samsung made in regard to its infringing device as a whole. The Supreme Court has changed this calculation of awarding damages to limit damages for design patents based on the part of the device that actually infringed as opposed to the entire product. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the opinion:
“In the case of a multicomponent product, the relevant “article of manufacture” for arriving at a §289 damages award need not be the end product sold to the consumer but may be only a component of that product.”
With this new ruling by the Supreme Court patent holders will no longer be able to get all the profits from sales of an infringing product having multicomponent parts. Instead, any profits will be limited to the infringing component.
The case will now go back down to the lower court to determine what penalties Samsung will have to pay to Apple.
Article by Scott Compton, J.D. Scott is an intellectual property specialist and Patent Attorney in the Houston, Texas Offices of Buche & Associates, P.C.