By: Tim Sparapani
It’s been 120 years since the US Supreme Court last heard a case regarding design patents. Now it has the opportunity to do so again, and it should, because technology has advanced yet the interpretation of laws protecting innovations has become ill fitting and out of date.
Samsung recently agreed to pay $548 million in damages to Apple following several appeals regarding claims that Samsung infringed on some of Apple’s design patents. Samsung has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and address the issues it raises that extend well beyond smartphones.
This legal clash of tech titans over whether Samsung infringed Apple’s design patents spawned extended debate over what is protected by a design patent and may lead – if the dispute is reviewed and precedent set – to a more solid framework for design patent protections and dispute resolution clarity in future cases.
For more than five years, these companies slugged it out concerning the limitations of design patents, how to determine whether patented designs were infringed, and the proper remedies. The case is notable, not just because of the size and importance of these companies, but also because of the precedents that this case sets for our digital age when hardware and software are merging together in novel and unforeseen ways.
Rarely are cases so well teed up for the Supreme Court to offer crucial guidance in an area of law that has become so muddled. Given the extensive motions, trials, remands and appeals between Apple and Samsung this case seems primed for Supreme Court review because the legal issues have been highly refined allowing the Court to issue narrow decisions on legal grounds that nevertheless have broad impact.