Supreme Court rules against Apple in design patent case

In its first patent case decision in more than a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has sided with Samsung’s argument that its infringement of design patents held by Apple doesn’t mean it should have to surrender its full profits from smartphone sales, USA Today reports. Apple was initially awarded more than $1 billion over Samsung’s improper use of a number of design and utility patents, but Samsung took the case to the country’s highest court, arguing that lower courts misapplied the law around design patents, specifically when assessing ornamental versus functional aspects of a product’s design.
Chief Justice John Roberts signaled the court’s thinking in October during oral arguments, noting that Samsung only copied the style, not “all the chips and wires.” In her written decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asserted that Samsung’s patent infringement should be viewed as involving one part of a smartphone, not the entire device, potentially allowing for a drastic reduction in the damages owed to Apple in the case. Samsung had previously agreed to pay Apple $548 million in damages, but now almost $400 million of that award will return to a lower appeals court for review with the new decision in place.

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