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Apple's iPhone User Interface Held Functional for Trade Dress Infringement, But Not Design Patent Purposes

In the long-running Apple v. Samsung dispute, the Federal Circuit has highlighted a marked difference between the effectiveness of trade dress and design patents in protecting the visual characteristics of a product, which could potentially cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars in lost damages.

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In the long-running Apple v. Samsung dispute, the Federal Circuit has highlighted a marked difference between the effectiveness of trade dress and design patents in protecting the visual characteristics of a product, which could potentially cost Apple hundreds of millions of dollars in lost damages. Explaining that both the registered and unregistered trade dress features of Apple’s iPhone products are functional and thus not protectable, the Federal Circuit remanded the case back to the district court for entry of damages awards “not predicated on Apple’s trade dress claims.” On the other hand, the court affirmed awards on design patents that arguably cover many of the same features present in the trade dress.

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