The US Supreme Court [official website] unanimously ruled in favor [opinion, PDF] of Samsung over Apple [corporate websites] on Tuesday in an infringement suit between the two smartphone giants. At trial, a jury awarded Apple $399 million, an amount based on the total profits Samsung made selling smartphones that Apple claimed infringed on their iPhone design. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit [official website] reinstated the award [JURIST report] after originally overturning it. Samsung appealed, claiming the award should have been based only on the infringing “components” of the end product, in this case, “a rectangular front face with rounded edges and a grid of colorful icons on a black screen.” The issue before the court was whether an “article of manufacture,” as used in section 289 of the Patent Act [PDF], refers to an entire product or the individual components of that product. In its suit against Samsung, Apple claimed “article of manufacture” meant the entire end product because the individual components were not sold separately. Writing for the court in reversing the appellate court’s decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “the term ‘article of manufacture’ is broad enough to embrace both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product, whether sold separately or not,” and Samsung is therefore only responsible for the portion of the profits that resulted from the copied design. In the opinion, Sotomayor referred to kitchen items to illustrate the difference between Apple’s single-component and Samsung’s multicomponent arguments:
In the case of a design for a single-component product, such as a dinner plate, the product is the”article of manufacture” to which the design has been applied. In the case of a design for a multicomponent product, such as a kitchen oven, identifying the “article of manufacture” to which the design has been applied is a more difficult task.
This was the first decision regarding copyright infringement damages by the Supreme Court since Dobson v. Hartford Carpet Co. [opinion] in 1885.
This is the most recent installment of the ongoing patent dispute [JURIST op-ed] between the two electronics giants. In July Apple filed a brief [JURIST report] asking the Supreme Court to rule against Samsung in its patent infringement lawsuit. In January the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] granted [JURIST report] Apple’s motion for a permanent injunction against Samsung for infringing upon three software patents. In August 2014 the US District Court for the Northern District of California 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 2014 Apple and Samsung agreed to drop [JURIST report] all patent infringement lawsuits in courts outside of the US.