This morning, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Samsung’s favor in a case against Apple involving how damages should be calculated and awarded in design patent cases. In a win for the startup community, the court held that an award for design patent infringement does not necessarily allow the patent holder to obtain damages equivalent to the total profits of a product in which the patented design is used, as the lower court originally ruled. Rather, courts can award design patent damages for the particular components in which the patent was used. The decision may result in the lower court drastically decreasing its original award of almost $400 million to Apple, though the Supreme Court did not rule on how the modified damage amount should be calculated.
In June, Engine filed an amicus brief in support of Samsung’s position. The following statement can be attributed to Engine Executive Director Evan Engstrom:
“Today’s modern technologies are highly complex and typically include thousands of patented components. Some estimate that there are as many as 250,000 patents related to a typical smartphone. Awarding total profits for the violation of a design patent on a single feature of a product makes absolutely no sense in light of this complexity. In this case, Apple was awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in damages as a result of the infringement of three functionless design components—components that certainly do not represent the sole or driving reason why consumers might have purchased a Samsung phone.
“Today’s ruling sets an important precedent by recognizing that damages for design patent infringement can be based on just one part of a device, rather than the entire product. Startups are already disproportionately impacted by utility patent trolling, and had the court maintained a total profit regime, it would have given patent trolls one more powerful weapon in their arsenal to target and extort settlements from startups. Instead, this ruling brings design patent law into the 21st century and will help to ensure that America’s intellectual property system inspires, rather than stifles, innovation.”
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