SCOTUS reasoned that while the Patent Act's Section 289 states selling an "article of manufacture" with a patented design is illegal, and that patent infringers "shall be liable to the owner to the extent of his total profit," the law was too broadly applied in this case. Sotomayor explained, an "article of manufacture" incorporates both the entire product and its components. Therefore, the earlier decision that Samsung should pay damages based on the sales of its smartphones "cannot be squared" with the patent law. "Thus reading 'article of manufacture' in §289 to cover only an end product sold to a consumer gives too narrow a meaning to the phrase."
This is, in no small part, because US patent law is poorly organized. It's made it easy for bad patents to be granted. These, in turn, are used as weapons in business battles such as Apple v. Samsung. Patent trolls also use software, business process, and design patents to attack both technology manufacturers and users.
While the specific point addressed was a narrow one, it was hoped that SCOTUS would address the broader issue of the validity of design patents. The Court elected not to do this. Still, Apple can not be happy with this decision.