Published On: Wed, Dec 7th, 2016

US Supreme Court rules Samsung does not owe Apple millions over design features

The Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday that Samsung does not owe Apple the full profits from smartphones which had similar designs to iPhones. The high court overturned the lower court’s ruling that  forced Samsung to pay $399 million in damages for violating three of Apple’s design patents on the iPhone’s shape and colorful icons.

The 8-0 verdict delivered a huge blow to Apple as Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the brief giving Samsung a victory, avoiding millions in penalties.

Nearly $400 million was at stake in the current dispute.

“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,” Sotomayor wrote.

Public domain image/Pablo Neo

Public domain image/Pablo Neo

Apple initially sought nearly $1 billion in penalties, but later the penalties were reduced to $548 million, for imitating elements of the iPhone’s design.

The justices ordered that court to decide if only components were infringed upon, not the entire product.


The ruling comes as no surprise after comments several justices had made when the highly charged case was argued in October.

Chief Justice John Roberts noted then that Samsung did not infringe on “all the chips and wires.”

The ruling could impact the buying habits of consumers, who increasingly are being offered a variety of new smartphones from Apple, Samsung and others that offer similar features.

While Samsung still could have to pay a major penalty, the decision may ease the risk for manufacturers who mimic other products.

The high court’s ruling left open what courts should do when balancing design against a full product. An “article of manufacture,” it said, “is simply a thing made by hand or machine.”

“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,” Sotomayor wrote. “In the case of a design for a multi-component product, such as a kitchen oven, identifying the ‘article of manufacture’ to which the design has been applied is a more difficult task.”

This ruling divided some massive companies: Facebook, Google, Dell and Lenovo on Samsung’s side with more than 100 designers from companies such as Nike and Calvin Klein in Apple’s corner.

Apple took a hard line Tuesday against what it called Samsung’s “blatant copying of our ideas” and said it hoped lower courts “will again send a powerful signal that stealing isn’t right.”

Several experts on intellectual property law predicted it won’t be easy for courts to differentiate between a product’s design and its overall use, not to mention setting dollar figures for components.

“It is possible that we will enter into years of turmoil over the proper tests for calculating damages for infringement of a design patent,” said Rick McKenna, head of the design rights group at the law firm Foley & Lardner.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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