Apple v. Samsung: The Six-Year-and-Counting Patent Battle Is Back in Court

by: The Knowledge Group

May 15, 2018


The sultans of smartphones are facing off again this week in a San Jose courtroom. The Apple v. Samsung patent infringement battle is set to resume.

The question before the court? What Samsung owes for infringing on five of Apple’s utility and design patents—including a patent on the iPhone’s rectangular design, and its arrangement of easily grasped symbols against a blank backdrop.

The litigation began seven years ago and reached the Supreme Court in late 2016. Now it’s in its third trial in the district court.

Damages already imposed on Samsung amount to $548 million—based on the full value of a Samsung smartphone. The company is in court this week to try to reduce the damages by almost $400 million, citing the Supreme Court’s holding that allows restricted damages for infringement by basing calculations only on the profits related to the specific copied element.

Apple, meanwhile, still wants Samsung held to account for its full profits. Apple’s premise: it loses sales over infringements, and therefore should collect Samsung’s ill-gotten profits on the (now obsolete) phones that competed with Apple’s own.

Why the Case Matters

The crux of the controversy from the start, and the reason the Supreme Court heard this case, involves defining an “article of manufacture.”

Where a design patent covers one element of a product with multiple components, should the mechanism’s whole profit be the basis for infringement damages, as lower courts held previously in Apple v. Samsung? As hashed out in oral arguments, the owner of a design patent for a cup-holder shouldn’t expect damages based on all profits from sales of a car containing the infringing cup-holder. Here, Samsung asserts that the pertinent “article of manufacture” is a design element—not the entire phone.

The case will inevitably influence corporate strategies for design patent applications. Companies patenting an eye-catching design element might ensure that the design patent overlaps with the whole mechanism, thus implicating the whole product in damages calculations.

The Knowledge Group is hosing a webcast on May 24th reviewing recent trends and developments in patent infringement cases and we hope to see you there. You can find all of the details by clicking here, this webcast is also eligible for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Credit.