Apple v. Samsung: Design Patents Take Center Stage

Christopher V. Carani

©2013. Published in Landslide, Vol. 5, No. 3, January/February 2013, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

After operating in the intellectual property backwaters for years, design patents took center stage in the epic battle in Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co.1 What ensued was a dispute, centered on design rights, between two consumer tech titans that captured the nation’s attention—indeed the world’s. The case’s grip was felt not only in legal circles, but also in the mainstream press and media. After all, the case regarded symbols of our time—devices such as smartphones and tablets that impact our everyday lives. Indeed, the Wall Street Journal touted the case as “The Patent Trial of the Century.”2 Even the evening talk show circuit chimed in with both Conan O’Brien and The Colbert Report putting on skits that riffed on the case. Never has a patent infringement case, let alone one centered on design patents, received so much attention.

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