Samsung Appeals to SCOTUS Over Design Patent

Posted by Ashley Hellmers.

The New York Times published an article reporting that the Supreme Court has decided to hear Samsung’s appeal over how must be compensated for the replication of Apple’s designs.  Samsung violated Apple’s design patents for the iPhone in the creation of their S7 smartphones. Design patents are created to protect how a product looks, while a utility patent is created to protect how a product operates. Utility patents are much more common than design patents especially in this technological age. This case is monumental because the Supreme Court has not heard a case surrounding design patents in the last hundred years. The key question the Supreme Court will determine is “Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?”

Originally, Apple was to be awarded $548 million dollars by Samsung’s due to their infringement on Apple’s design patents. Three elements were declared to have been replicated from Apple’s iPhone: “a particular black rectangular round-cornered front face”; “a substantially similar rectangular round-cornered front face plus the surrounding rim”; and “a particular colorful grid of sixteen icons.” If a design patent is infringed upon, all profits made by the infringing company for the product are to be granted to the patent’s owner. According to the article, “even if the patented features contributed to 1 percent of the value of Samsung’s phone, Apple gets 100 percent of Samsung’s profits.”

Samsung is appealing to the Supreme Court because they believe design patents and this profit rule should not be applicable in this technological era. Many companies, such as Google and Facebook, are speaking out on the side of Samsung that the design patents are out of touch with the digital era. In terms of technology, a products function is more important and more profitable than its design. Therefore, Samsung believes that the profit rule associated with design patents is outdated. Samsung is seeking to pay only $149 million to Apple after the appeal. Apple was pushing for the Supreme Court not to hear the case.

Ashley is a marketing major at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2019.