Apple vs. Samsung: Landmark Trial Reveals Design Damages

Landmark Trial

The Impact of Apple vs. Samsung Case on Design Patents

On May 24, 2018, a pivotal moment unfolded in the prolonged legal battle between tech giants Apple and Samsung, focusing on the design of smartphones and related devices. This round delved into the retrial specifically addressing damages – how much was Samsung liable to pay Apple for infringing several design patents related to various features of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.


The roots of this legal saga trace back to Apple’s 2011 patent infringement lawsuit in the Northern District of California. The jury ruled in favor of Apple, finding that Samsung’s smartphones infringed on three design patents, leading to a $399 million judgment. Despite the Federal Circuit’s affirmation, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, urging a determination of the appropriate legal standard to define “article of manufacture.”

Why “Article of Manufacture” Matters

The latest dispute revolved around whether the specific design features used by Samsung in its smartphones were the driving force behind consumers’ purchases. Defining the “article of manufacture” served as a gateway to the broader question of damages. The Supreme Court allowed the possibility of Samsung paying less than its full profits if the “article of manufacture” was a component rather than the entire device.

On remand, the focus shifted to damages, with Judge Lucy Koh adopting a four-factor test to guide the jury. This test considers the scope of the design patent, the prominence of the design within the product, its distinctiveness, and the physical relationship between the design and the rest of the product.

Trial and Verdict

During the trial, Samsung presented consumer surveys to estimate the value of specific design components, but Apple contested their relevance. The jury ultimately sided with Apple, awarding $539 million, $140 million more than the previous judgment. The ambiguity surrounding the determination of the “article of manufacture” for calculating damages persists, with the four-factor test providing limited clarity.

Implications for You

Beyond the staggering damage award, Apple’s success underscores the potency of well-crafted design patents in safeguarding against even minimal infringements. The case highlights the unpredictability of the new test and emphasizes the effectiveness of well-drafted design patents in protecting crucial design features from infringement by competitors.

In conclusion, this case reinforces the significance of design patents in the realm of Best Business Legal Services. It highlights that, despite ongoing speculation about damage calculations, a well-structured design patent can serve as a formidable defense against encroachment by market rivals, particularly when navigated within the framework of comprehensive legal counsel specialized in business affairs.

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