Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed a decision of the Federal Circuit in the long-running iPhone litigation between Apple and Samsung and we, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), welcomed it. The Federal Circuit had held that when a design patent is infringed, the plaintiff is entitled to the total profits from the infringing product—even where the infringing product has many components. The lower court had permitted Apple to recover all of the profits from the sale of infringing Samsung Galaxy phones, despite the fact that the allegedly infringed elements were minor ornamental components of the overall product.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the long-running Samsung v. Apple design patent litigation and took special note of the technology industry’s concerns. The Court was reviewing a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit holding that someone found to infringe a design patent could be liable for all of the profits made from the infringing product, even if the reason that consumers bought the product was in substantial part because of its functionality. (We wrote previously about that here. The reason for the lower court’s holding stemmed from the language of 35 U.S.C. 279, which says, in relevant part (emphasis added):