Happy New Year We are starting off 2018 with a summary of the landmark Apple v. Samsung case. This matter is far from over. It is a story both tragic and hopeful. Here is my summary of the case as it currently stands on appeal before Judge Koh in California.
Involvement of The Professional Design Community and Related Amicus Brief Some of you may have signed the Supreme Court amicus brief in the Apple v. Samsung case that Charles Mauro co-wrote together with the legal team at Orrick. Thank you for your support.
Impact of Our Design Amicus Brief In October of 2016, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Apple, Samsung, and from the US Department of Justice as a neutral party. All justices read our amicus brief signed by numerous IDSA members and other world-class designers including Dieter Rams, Norman Foster, Terance Conran, fashion designer Calvin Klein and design heads of many leading design studios across the globe. The contents of the brief were referenced in the proceedings. The amicus received very wide exposure in the design and business press. In fact, the brief has become required critical reading for design students at leading design programs on a global basis.
What Happened At The Supreme Court Hearing During the actual proceedings in Washington DC, quite unexpectedly, Apple agreed with Samsung on the primary question before the court. This was a major surprise to everyone who worked to blunt the attack by Samsung. In short, the two parties agreed that it would be conceptually possible for damages in design patent cases to be calculated on less than the total profits obtained from the sale of the entire product. As you may recall, the total profits method for calculating damages has been in place since the late 1890s and was the only point which Samsung had asked the court to rule on.
The Not-So-Surprising Outcome Left with no meaningful dispute between the parties (a very rare event), the justices voted 3 months later in their final ruling that damages could be calculated based on the relevant component part of designs to which the design patent had been applied instead of to the total profits of the entire product. The ruling by the Supreme Court essentially gutted the prior damages legal framework and with it a good deal of design rights IP on a global basis. However, the ruling was no surprise given that both Apple and Samsung agreed on the key legal question. This ruling left the global design profession in disbelief.