[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [opinion, PDF] Apple’s smartphone patent victory against Samsung but remanded the case to the lower court to reduce the damages that must be paid to Apple [corporate websites]. The court upheld the district court’s determination that Samsung infringed on some of Apple’s patented iPhone technology but also found that Samsung should have prevailed over Apple’s “trade dress” arguments. Trade dress is “the totality of elements in which a product … is packaged or presented” for the purpose of “identify[ing] the source of the product.” However, no trade dress patent protection is available for product features that are merely “functional” because allowing such protection would stifle market competition. The circuit court ruled that the lower court erred in denying Samsung’s motion for judgment regarding Apple’s phone features of rounded phone corners and “flat, clear screens” above display screens as these are clearly functional phone features and not trade dress. Therefore the court remanded to the lower court to adjust Samsung’s damages to reflect that the jury’s verdict on the trade dress claims has been vacated. Originally the jury had awarded [WSJ report] $1.05 billion in damages, which was later reduced to $930 million. $382 million of the final award was based on the trade dress claim [Reuters report] and must not be reconsidered.
This remand for damage consideration is the most recent installment of the ongoing patent dispute [JURIST op-ed] between the two electronics giants. In August the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] denied [JURIST report] Apple’s request to ban Samsung from selling any of its products that infringed on Apple’s patented technology. Earlier in August Apple and Samsung agreed to drop [JURIST report] all patent infringement lawsuits in courts outside of the US. In June Apple and Samsung also agreed to dismiss [JURIST report] their appeals of a patent infringement case at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) [official website] that resulted in an import ban on some older model Samsung phones. LastMay a jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ordered [JURIST report] Samsung to pay $119.6 million to Apple for two phone patent infringements.