Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.:
An Exploration of Patent Law and Ever-Evolving Technology
April 15, 2011 marks the date that kick-started the most high-profile US design patent cases of all time; a lawsuit that could possibly change the face of technology as we know it. Apple Inc. sued Samsung Electronics Co. on the grounds that Samsung’s smartphones as well as tablets infringed upon Apple’s technology and design patents (Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., 2013). Deemed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to be “The Patent Trial of the Century”, the case drew an extraordinary amount of worldwide attention, grabbing the headlines and taking center stage. The jury found that Samsung had infringed Apple’s design patents on the home button, and rounded corners of the phone, as well as their utility patents covering the “bounce back effect,” and “tap to zoom” functions (L., 2013). Samsung was asked to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages (Stern, 2012). The case is likely to be re-examined, however, as appeals have already been filed. Impacting the product design of new technologies for years to come, this lawsuit has provided an opportunity for experts to further understand the scope of design rights and determine how close is too close in regards to design patent infringement (Carani, 2012). Patent laws are impeding to the point of prohibiting new products created by emerging or existing companies from entering the market; furthermore, patent laws have made it possible for current technology-producing companies to seemingly create a monopoly on technology design.
Knowing the law is not only the key to understanding the reasoning behind the jury’s verdict but also in ensuring that infringement is minimized or eliminated altogether as the number of technological advances grow each day. The current design patent infringement test, better known as the ordinary observer test, was first exercised in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Gorham Co. v. White in 1871. According to this precedent case, infringement occurs if two products appear to be similar enough for one to have inspired the other. In 2008, another clause was added to the test that stated it should be conducted “in view of the prior art” [Egyptian Goddess v. Swisa, 543 F.3d 665 (Fed. Cir. 2008)]. Prior art is an earlier publication that shows a similar invention. The obvious standard requires the patent office to view the manner in which the invention occurred to insure the innovation was not made obvious by another idea at that period in time. When determining whether or not a product accused of infringement has truly crossed the line, investigators are asked to use everyday perceptions, discernment, and awareness (Carani, 2012).
This idea of patenting technology has been long debated. In some ways, patents help push the boundaries and expand the horizons of technology. Patent laws help protect innovators who create never-before seen...