design patents

US Supreme Court:

Samsung May Not Have to Pay

As Much to Apple

By Google – Android, CC BY 2.5,

The US Supreme Court has ruled that Samsung may not have to pay $399 million to Apple for copying the patented design of Apple phones.

Apple had sued because Samsung copied certain design elements of Apple phones, including the black rectangular face with rounded corners and the grid of colorful icons for apps.


Under federal law, a company that infringes a design patent for an “article of manufacture” is liable to the patent owner for its total profits. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case turned on the definition of that phrase.

In 2012, a jury found that Samsung had infringed the Apple design patents at issue and awarded Apple $399 million as part of an overall award of $1 billion. The damages award was based on the entire profit Samsung earned from sales of the infringing devices.

Writing for the unanimous Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that an “article of manufacture” may be an entire product — in this case, an entire phone. But in some cases the “article” might be some component of a product.

She said that the Federal Circuit was wrong to have ruled that an “article of manufacture” must always be the ENTIRE product as sold to the consumer:

In the case of a design for a single-component product, such as a dinner plate, the product is the ‘article of manufacture’ to which the design has been applied. In the case of a design for a multicomponent product, such as a kitchen oven, identifying the ‘article of manufacture’ to which the design has been applied is a more difficult task.

The case has been sent back to the Federal Circuit for further consideration on the issue of damages.

As the New York Times reported, Mark A. Lemley, a law professor and director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology, said “the court basically punted”:

It seems to have clearly in its mind that the patent could cover only a portion of the device. But it said, ‘We’re not going to tell you what the right rule is.’

Apple v. Samsung:

Supreme Court to consider

phone design patents


The US Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the long-standing design patent dispute between Apple and Samsung.

According to the New York Times, the Supreme Court hasn’t heard a design patent case in more than 120 years. Read the full article →

European Umbrellas Look Toward the West

by Adam Philipp on October 30, 2015





Senz Technologies BV, a company based in the Netherlands, filed two applications for registration of a Community Design with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs), which dumbrellaeals with design rights in the European Union.

The designs were for asymmetrical umbrellas which supposedly are more resistant to being turned inside out by the wind.

Another Dutch company, Impliva BV, lodged an application for a declaration that the designs were invalid.

The dispute eventually reached the EU General Court.

According to the court’s opinion,

The intervener contended in particular that the umbrellas covered by the contested designs did not have individual character, because they make the same overall impression on the informed user as a certain number of umbrellas with an identical or similar shape which have been the subject of patents or designs registered and made available to the public prior to the registration of the contested designs.

Specifically, a US patent registered in 1996 was for a similar design.

Under EU Community Design Regulations,

a registered Community design is to be considered to have individual character if the overall impression it produces on the informed user differs from the overall impression produced on such a user by any design which has been made available to the public before the date of filing of the application for registration or, if a priority is claimed, the date of priority.

(Emphasis added.)

Thus, one issue was whether the US patent was “made available to the public” in Europe.

The court noted the following findings of the Board of Appeal:

First, the site of the USPTO register is accessible free of charge. Secondly, designs are known in the United States as ‘design patents’. Thirdly, it would be unwise on the part of those circles not to check whether prior art already exists in the American register, which is one of the most important registers of intellectual property rights in the world. Finally, the fact that the United States is the most important trading partner of the European Union makes it unlikely that the circles specialised in the sector concerned do not consult the USPTO register.

The court agreed that looking to the US for prior art was appropriate, but concluded that the umbrella design at issue was sufficiently different from the one covered by the US patent.

The takeaway is that a US patent can be used to challenge the registration of a design in the EU.

The case is Joined Cases T-22/13 and T-23/13 – Senz Technologies BV v OHIM.

Design Patents

by Adam Philipp on July 2, 2013

Design Patents are great
Short claims and easy to get
Soon with longer life.

clip_image002Design patents used to be considered the lowly step-sister of the standard utility patent. Things are changing, filings are going up and allowance rates for those filings are holding at a steady ~90 percent with more than 80 percent receiving no rejections prior to being granted by the United States Patent Office. Tellingly, much of the Apple-Samsung smartphone case, and the resulting billion dollar judgment (albeit subsequently reduced) hinged on design patents.

Read the full article →