Recently, in a non-precedential decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit remanded Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. back to Judge Lucy Koh (shown left) of the United States Federal District Court for the Northern District of California. In December 2016, the Supreme Court overturned a $400 million damages award for design patent infringement. In its ruling, the Supreme Court explained that damages may be limited to revenues attributable to a component of an article of manufacture and not the entire article itself. See Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple, Inc.
Apple requested that the Federal Circuit keep the case and the panel review the decision in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, while Samsung requested that the Federal Circuit remand the matter to the district court for a new trial on damages. The Federal Circuit adopted neither suggestion. Instead, the Federal Circuit chose to remand the case for further proceedings, which the panel explained may or may not include a new trial on damages. Judge Koh will decide whether a new trial on damages is necessary.
On Monday, March 21, 2016, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter of Samsung Electronics v. Apple, Inc., a dispute between two giant technology companies that at its core relates to how much Samsung owes Apple for infringing certain design patents.
So far, these two technology giants have shown little interest in playing nice. A jury found that Samsung infringed Apple design patents, Apple utility patents and also diluted Apple’s trade dresses. The infringed design patents are U.S. Design Patent Nos. D618,677 (“D’677 patent”), D593,087 (“D’087 patent”), and D604,305 (“D’305 patent”), which claim certain design elements embodied in Apple’s iPhone. The infringed utility patents are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,469,381 (“’381 patent”), 7,844,915 (“’915 patent”), and 7,864,163 (“’163 patent”), which claim certain features in the iPhone’s user interface. The diluted trade dresses are Trademark Registration No. 3,470,983 (“’983 trade dress”) and an unregistered trade dress defined in terms of certain elements in the configuration of the iPhone.
The Department of Commerce recently had a ceremony at Langdon Education Campus in Washington, DC, commemorating the issuance of the 700,000th design patent (see main image to the left). The design patent, titled Hand-held learning apparatus, was issued to LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc. (NYSE: LF) on February 25, 2014, but the celebration ceremony was not held until March 26, 2014.
“Protecting and promoting our idea-driven economy is essential to keeping America open for business,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The USPTO plays a major role in serving our nation’s innovators by granting them the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies and bring their products and services to the global marketplace.”
The ceremony also included the launch of a new Intellectual Property (IP) Patch developed as a joint project between the USPTO, the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, and the Intellectual Property Owners (IPO) Education Foundation.
Once upon a time, one of the ways you could separate the unsavory underbelly of the patent industry from the legitimate operators was to look at who was directing clients to get design patents. Design patents have always been easy to obtain…indeed, far easier to obtain than a utility patent. But design patent rights are exceptionally weak. Nevertheless, over the past decade, design patents have continued to grow in numbers, and have proved to be an effective part of patent strategy, in some cases. If you have not considered advising clients to seek design patents, you really should consider the benefits.
It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights, it’s time to meet the patent behind the Muppet Show delights. In 1958, Jim Henson filed an a patent application with the USPTO for a “puppet doll or similar article”. The patent application, Patent Number D186119, was for a design patent, as the patent claim states it is for, “the ornamental design for a puppet doll or similar article as shown or described.” If you check out the patent application, you will see a figure that looks similar to the Muppet known and loved throughout the world as Kermit the Frog. Henson’s Muppet mastery had debuted a few years earlier when in 1955, when Kermit the Frog made an appearance on “Sam and Friends”.