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Samsung Electronics Co. v. Apple Inc.

Section 289 of the Patent Act makes it unlawful to manufacture or sell an “article of manufacture” to which a patented design or a colorable imitation thereof has been applied and makes an infringer liable to the patent holder “to the extent of his total profit.” 35 U. S. C. §289. As relevant here, a jury found that various smartphones manufactured by petitioners (collectively, Samsung) infringed design patents owned by respondent Apple Inc. that covered a rectangular front face with rounded edges and a grid of colorful icons on a black screen. Apple was awarded $399 million in damages—Samsung’s entire profit from the sale of its infringing smartphones. The Federal Circuit affirmed the damages award, rejecting Samsung’s argument that damages should be limited because the relevant articles of manufacture were the front face or screen rather than the entire smartphone. The court reasoned that such a limit was not required because the components of Samsung’s smartphones were not sold separately to ordinary consumers and thus were not distinct articles of manufacture.

Held: In the case of a multicomponent product, the relevant “article of manufacture” for arriving at a §289 damages award need not be the end product sold to the consumer but may be only a component of that product. Pp. 4–9.

(a) The statutory text resolves the issue here. An “article of manufacture,” which is simply a thing made by hand or machine, encompasses both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product. This reading is consistent with §171(a) of the Patent Act, which makes certain “design[s] for an article of manufacture” eligible for design patent protection, and which has been understood by the Patent Office and the courts to permit a design patent that extends to only a component of a multicomponent product, see, e.g., Ex parte Adams, 84 Off. Gaz. Pat. Office 311; Application of Zahn, 617 F. 2d 261, 268 (CCPA). This reading is also consistent with the Court’s reading of the term “manufacture” in §101, which makes “any new and useful . . . manufacture” eligible for utility patent protection. See Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U. S. 303 . Pp. 4–7.

(b) Because the term “article of manufacture” is broad enough to embrace both a product sold to a consumer and a component of that product, whether sold separately or not, the Federal Circuit’s narrower reading cannot be squared with §289’s text. Absent adequate briefing by the parties, this Court declines to resolve whether the relevant article of manufacture for each design patent at issue here is the smartphone or a particular smartphone component. Doing so is not necessary to resolve the question presented, and the Federal Circuit may address any remaining issues on remand. Pp. 7–8.

786 F. 3d 983, reversed and remanded.

Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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