However, there were a number of important cases. Here’s a roundup of some we discussed. The Medicines Company v. Hospira, Inc. involved the “on-sale bar” rule. Normally, a patent application must be filed within one year after the patented item is offered for sale. However, the Federal Circuit ruled that this didn’t apply when the sale was from a contract manufacturer back to the inventor.
The case of McRo, Inc. v. Bandai Namco Games America involved the claims of a patent for synchronizing the mouth movements of animated characters to a vocal track. The Federal Circuit found that this software-related patent wasn’t for an abstract concept (the idea of rules-based lip-synching) but was for a process of applying new rules to better perform a task that previously had to be done manually.
In Apple v. Samsung, the US Supreme Court took on design patents for the first time in more than 120 years. A lower court had ordered Samsung to pay 100% of its profits for several of its phones that were found to infringe design patents belonging to Apple — including those for a “black rectangle with rounded corners” and a “colorful grid” of 16 app icons.
The Supreme Court ruled that Samsung may not have to pay the $399 million to Apple that a jury awarded in 2012. Writing for the unanimous court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that an “article of manufacture” on which damages are based 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.