Apple v. Samsung Returns to District Court

By William Vogeler, Esq. on February 13, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to a phone and its components, what is the "article of manufacture?"

In the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement case, the U.S. Supreme Court said last year that it could be a product or a component of the product. The decision upended Apple's $399 million judgment against Samsung based on the phone's entire design.

The Supreme Court did not define "the article of manufacture" for calculating damages in the case, however. The justices sent that determination back to the court of appeals.

On remand, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit this week rejected arguments from both Apple and Samsung on the question. Instead, the appeals panel sent the issue back to the trial judge.

"While Apple requests continued panel review, Samsung requests that we remand to the district court for a new trial on damages," the court said. " Instead, we remand this case to the district court for further proceedings, which may or may not include a new damages trial."

There and Back

The case began its way up the federal system after Apple and Samsung began suing each other literally all over the world. Following an appeal and multiple trial court proceedings, Apple won the patent infringement judgment for $399 million. Samsung appealed, then appealed again.

On its way back to the Federal Circuit, Apple said the panel should resolve the issue against Samsung because it never asserted that the article of manufacture was anything other than an entire phone. Samsung, with the benefit of the Supreme Court's decision, said the trial judge should have instructed the jury that there might be more than one article of manufacture in a multi-component product.

Try, Trial Again

"In short, the parties dispute what jury instructions the current trial record supports," the panel said. "Because the district court is better positioned to parse the record to evaluate the parties' competing arguments, we remand for the district court to consider these issues in the first instance."

Samsung appears to be winning the battle on the way down. Apple certainly wanted to the finish the case at the appeals level, but the appellate court has left the next decision for the trial court.

"Just like the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit declined to instruct the trial court exactly how to determine what constitutes the appropriate 'article of manufacture' for any given case," said Case Collard, a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney. "That issue will now be remanded to the trial court for determination."

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