SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S.
Supreme Court ruled in favor of Samsung on Dec. 6, in what is being
heralded as a major victory in the patent controversy with rival tech
According to www.jurist.org,
Apple was awarded $119.63 million in damages and royalties by the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California for
infringement of three of the patents. Samsung appealed the decision,
claiming that the amount of the damages should have been based solely
upon the infringing components, not on sales of the entire device.
The argument here is part of a
larger issue at hand for technology patents. The U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Federal Circuit first overturned the lower court’s
decision, and then later the court reinstated the initial award.
Supreme Court was then left to decide if “article of manufacture”
included the entire end product, or only the infringing elements of
that end product’s design. In an opinion
delivered by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court held that “In the
case of a multicomponent product, the relevant “article of
manufacture” for arriving at a §289 damages award need not be the
end product sold to the consumer but may be only a component of that
product…,” adding that “... because the term 'article of
manufacture' is broad enough to embrace both a product sold to a
consumer and a component of that product, whether sold separately or
not, the Federal Circuit’s narrower reading cannot be squared with
Peter Lee, professor of law and chancellor's
fellow at UC Davis School of Law, spoke about the seemingly ambiguous
nature of the Supreme Court’s ruling and what it means for the two
companies moving forward.
“This is part and parcel of
the Supreme Court's recent trend in patent law. It strikes down the
federal circuit's bright-line rule and articulates a broad standard
with little guidance as to how to apply it,” he told the Northern
California Record. “This
means that lower courts will have to struggle with defining the
relevant 'article of manufacture' on a case-by-case basis going
Apple has claimed in the past that a ruling in favor
of Samsung would be detrimental to business and the innovations of
new technology. Lee said this doesn’t necessarily hold true.
“It depends on your
perspective,” he said. “It is possible that reducing damages will
decrease incentives to create, as Apple claims. However, it's an open
question as to how much additional incentive design patents provide
over and above natural competitive pressures to innovate. Even aside
from exclusive rights, companies still have incentives to create new
designs, products and technologies.
“Furthermore, reducing damages
allows potentially greater follow-on innovation, which increases
competition and may lower prices and increase choice for consumers.”
Both Apple and Samsung have adopted different business strategies
here. A ruling in favor of Apple would have been a significant gain
for its business model, but according to Lee, the opinion and what
will eventually be a lowered damages amount makes Samsung’s
follow-on innovation business model more viable moving forward.
Overall, the case has brought to
the forefront some issues with patent law in today’s world that
have long needed to be addressed by the courts.
“The Apple v.
Samsung litigation has drawn considerable attention to design
patents, which for a long time was a relatively neglected area of
intellectual-property law,” Lee said. “Indeed, design-patent
filings have been up in the past couple of years as companies in the
IT space have looked to them as effective mechanisms for capturing
value. The Supreme Court's ruling may put a dent in this trend, as
damages for design-patent infringement will not be nearly as high as
before for component products.”