Supreme Court to hear Samsung's appeal in Apple design patents case

The court will decide how to apply design patent awards to a component of a larger product

The U.S. Supreme Court has given Samsung a last chance to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars to Apple for allegedly infringing its iPhone design patents.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear part of Samsung's appeal of an award of US$399 million in damages for infringement of three design patents, which cover the face and rounded bezel design of the Apple iPhone and the grid of icons on the phone's home screen.

Samsung, with support from Google, Facebook and other tech companies, had asked the Supreme Court to take a new look at design patents, even though the rules have remained largely unchanged for more than a century.

Samsung asked the court to address two questions, but justices agreed only to address the second:

  1. Where a design patent includes unprotected non-ornamental features, should a district court be required to limit that patent to its protected ornamental scope?

  2. Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer's profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?

This is the second recent setback for Apple in patent litigation against Samsung. Late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit threw out a $119.6 million award against Samsung related to three iPhone-related patents, including the slide-to-unlock feature. Two of the three Apple patents, including slide-to-unlock, are invalid and a third wasn't infringed by Samsung, the appeals court ruled.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the design patent case during its next term, which begins in October. Court session usually continue until late June or early July.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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