In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court has given a ruling in the long running case of Samsung v Apple which provides guidance on how damages in American patent cases should be decided and which will have a big impact on the future running of this dispute. The Supreme Court held that where damages are to be paid for a breach of American design patent rights concerning a multi component product, those damages can have the potential to be calculated on the basis of a component of the infringing product, as well as the whole of the product itself.
The case was focused around three design patents for Apple's iPhone. These included how icon layouts appear on the iPhone's screen, the rounded rectangular shape of the phone, and the design appearance of the phone. The litigation has spanned for over five years since Apple accused Samsung of copying its iPhone related designs for use in the Samsung galaxy and other smartphones made by the South Korean conglomerate.
The Supreme Court's decision overturns the decision of the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The Federal Court held that for the purposes of assessing damages the term 'article of manufacture' was to be based only on the end product sold to the consumer, given that consumers themselves could not purchase individual components.
However, in a much wider reading of the law, the Supreme Court held that the term 'article of manufacture' included both the end product sold to the consumer and an individual competent within that product. This means that Apple's damages award does not have to be based on the sales of the entire phones which Samsung have sold, but can be calculated on the value of the specific components protected by the design patent.
This was as far as the Supreme Court was willing to venture in its decision citing that they would not set down a test for determining what a relevant 'article of manufacture' was given that the parties involved had not briefed them on this matter. Thus, it is now back to the Federal Circuit to form a test with the Supreme Court's decision in mind.in: EU/International, Patents