U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court will consider damages issue in Apple and Samsung smartphone patent fight

  • Print.

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a damages question in a smartphone patent battle between Samsung and Apple.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed (PDF) on Monday to consider Samsung’s bid to overturn a $399 million verdict for design infringement, SCOTUSblog reports.

Samsung was ordered to pay the money for infringing three of Apple’s design patents on smartphones that covered: their black rectangular face with rounded corners, their surrounding rim, and their use of 16 colorful icons, according to the cert petition (PDF).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the $399 million award, even though it constituted all of the profits made from the infringing product, rather than profits attributable to the infringing design features.

The Supreme Court agreed to consider this issue: When a design patent applies to only a component of a product, should damages for infringement be limited to profits attributable to the component?

According to the cert petition, the Federal Circuit decision overcompensates for design patents “by allowing their holders to obtain massive windfalls far exceeding the inventive value of their patents.”

Under the Federal Circuit’s holding, the cert petition says, if a patented design is only 1 percent responsible for a product’s sale, the patent’s owner still gets 100 percent of the profits in an infringement action. “Under that rule, a jury that awards infringer’s profits must award the entire profits on a car (or even an eighteen-wheel tractor-trailer) that contains an infringing cup-holder, and must award the entire profits on every pair of shoes that contains an infringing heel, sole or lace,” the cert petition says.

The court turned down a second issue in Samsung’s cert petition concerning the scope of patents on designs that include unprotected nonornamental features.

Total damages in the case amounted to about $930 million, but the verdict was later pared to $548 million. Samsung agreed to pay that amount in December, while reserving the right to seek reimbursement if it won the Supreme Court appeal of the $399 million portion of the verdict, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.