By Jeremy B. Barton
| June 17, 2014
Tesla Motors announced in a blog post on June 12, 2014 that Tesla “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” It appears that Tesla’s goal is encourage the expansion of electric vehicle technology “in the spirit of the open source movement.” Tesla has been issued hundreds of utility patents since its inception.  It remains to be seen if this strategy will work to Tesla’s advantage and if other companies will follow suit.

But what about Tesla’s design Patents?

Tesla is active with design patents.  Over the last two years, Tesla has been issued several design patents that range from wheels to vehicle display mounts and vehicle designs.  Additional design patents are probably on their way.  The table below lists the design patents that have been issued to Tesla.

Tesla probably would not view copying or even improvement on its design patents as a “good faith” use of their technology.  Opening up Tesla’s designs to its competition would hardly advance electric vehicle technology.  Design patents, which are ornamental in nature, help a company differentiate itself from its competition, establish goodwill, and provide a strong source of protection.  Tesla would probably view any use of its designs by its competitors as “bad faith.” 

Likely, the last thing Tesla would want to see is a fleet of electric cars from multiple manufacturers that look exactly like Tesla’s vehicle designs.  Nor would Tesla likely be pleased to see a competitor design an internal combustion engine vehicle that copies Tesla’s Model S.




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By Anne-Raphaelle Aubry
| May 29, 2014
Once again going on the offensive by asserting design patents in its portfolio, Oakley, Inc. (Oakley) filed a complaint for patent infringement against Sunscape Eyewear, Inc. (Sunscape) on February 14, 2014, in the Southern District of California (14Cv0358-BTM-DHB).

The complaint relates to the following thirteen design patents:

  • D462,375 (‘375 patent), issued in 2002, claiming Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D581,444 (‘444 patent), issued in 2008, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D581,443 (‘443 patent), issued in 2008, claiming Eyeglasses Components,
  • D569,412 (‘412 patent), issued in 2008, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D649,579 (‘579 patent), issued in 2011, claiming an Eyeglass,
  • D564,571 (‘571 patent), issued in 2008, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D547,794 (‘794 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglasses,
  • D554,689 (‘689 patent), issued in 2007, claiming an Eyeglass frame,
  • D556,818 (‘818 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D557,326 (‘326 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D616,919 (‘919 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass Front,
  • D610,604 (‘604 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components, and
  • D620,970 (‘970 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass Component.
Oakley asserted that the Defendant allegedly manufactured, sold, offered for sale and/or imported into the United States eyewear allegedly infringing Oakley’s patent rights.

Oakley further asserted that it had provided the public with constructive notice of its patent rights by marking its products.

In the complaint, Oakley claimed that the Defendant was “knowingly, intentionally and willfully infring[ing] … [the above-noted design patents] by making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing eyewear” allegedly covered by these design patents.

Oakley asserted that the Defendant had knowledge of the patents, infringed with reckless disregard for Oakley’s patent rights, and knew or should have known that its actions constituted infringement.

Exhibits in the complaint included the above-noted patents, together with representations of the products allegedly infringing these patents. These representations, along with selected Figures from Oakley’s patents, are reproduced alongside in the chart below.



Oakley requested that its thirteen patents be deemed valid and willfully infringed, with a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Defendant, and payment of “all damages suffered by Oakley and/or Defendant’s total profit from such infringement” to Oakley. Further demands included a trebling of damages, an award of attorney fees, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interests and costs. A jury trial was requested.

This case is ongoing.


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By Anne-Raphaelle Aubry
| May 13, 2014
Over the past few years Oakley Inc. (“Oakley”) has relied heavily on design patents to protect its product line.  Most recently, Oakley filed a complaint for patent infringement against Thermor Ltd. (Thermor), Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (Fry), Best Buy Co. Inc. (Best Buy), Tool King LLC. d/b/a/ Toolking.com (Toolking), Laptop Travel, LLC., and Beach Trading Co., Inc. d/b/a/ Buydig.com (Buydig), (collectively “Defendants”) on February 14, 2014, in the Southern District of California (14CV0349-GPC-DHB).

In the complaint, Oakley asserted that the Defendants manufactured, used, sold, offered for sale and/or imported into the United States, eyewear allegedly infringing Oakley’s Design Patent No. D523,461 (’461 patent), directed to an Eyeglass Component.  As discussed further below, Oakley has asserted the ‘461 patent on numerous occasions in the past.

Oakley previously sued Hire Order, Ltd. on June 2012, (3:12-cv-02346-DMS-WMC) over its ‘461 patent, demanding that Hire cease the sales of its Sportsman Eyewear video recording system.

In this case, Oakley claims Thermor was “knowingly, intentionally and willfully directly infring[ing], engag[ing] in acts of contributory infringement, and /or induc[ing] the infringement of the D461 patent by directly and/or directly making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing eyewear covered by the D461 patent.” Oakley listed Thermor’s BIOS Eyewear Cam as an allegedly infringing product.

Oakley made similar statements regarding Fry, and Fry’s BIOS Eyewear Cam, Best Buy and Best Buy’s Thermor – BIOS Eyewear Cam, Laptop Travel and their BIOS Eyewear Action Cam, as well as Toolking and Buydig for their Thermor 604FC BIOS Eyeware Action Camera.

Reproduced below is Figure 1 of the D461 patent, and a representation of the Thermor 604FC BIOS Eyeware Action Camera as listed on the Buydig.com website.



In the complaint, Oakley noted that the Defendant’s alleged acts of infringement were undertaken without license from Oakley, that Defendants had “actual and/or constructive knowledge of the D461 patent … [and] infringed the D461 Patent with reckless disregard of Oakley’s patent rights.” Oakley further argued that “Defendants knew, or it was so obvious that Defendants should have known” that their actions constituted infringement.

Oakley requested a preliminary and permanent injunction, damages allegedly suffered by Oakley and/or Defendants’ total profit from the alleged infringement, with treble damages. Oakley further requested an award of attorney fees, and pre-judgment and post-judgment costs. A jury by trial was demanded.

This case is ongoing.

The ’461 patent was also asserted by Oakley in the cases listed below, several of which are ongoing.

Case Number

Date Filed

Date Terminated

Outcome

Court

Note

8:11-cv-00456-JVS-PLA

03/22/11

06/28/12

Dismissed without Prejudice

Central District of California (Southern Division – Santa Ana)

 

3:11-cv-01305-DMS-WMC

06/14/11

04/02/12

Default Judgment

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:13-cv-01292-DMS-WMC

06/04/13

09/04/13

Dismissed with Prejudice

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

5:11-cv-01975-JKG

03/22/11

05/12/11

Voluntary Dismissal by Plaintiff

Eastern Distirct of Pennsylvania (Allentown)

Oakley as Defendant

1:11-cv-00034-LRR

03/21/11

08/02/11

Dismissed in deference to parallel action

Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids)

Oakley as Defendant

2:09-cv-00624-JVS-AN

01/27/09

07/29/09

Default Judgment

Central District of California (Western Division – Los Angeles)

 

8:09-cv-00062-JVS-AN

01/14/09

08/25/09

Dismissed with Prejudice

Central District of California (Southern Division – Santa Ana)

 

3:12-cv-02346-DMS-RBB

09/26/12

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:14-cv-00349-DMS-RBB

02/14/14

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:14-cv-00270-LAB-BLM

02/14/14

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 


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By Anne-Raphaelle Aubry
| May 1, 2014
On April 21, 2014 the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued a final written decision in Munchkin Inc. et al. v. Luv N’ Care Ltd. (IPR2013-00072), the inter partes review of Luv N’ Care Ltd.’s design patent for a baby drinking cup.

The PTAB found Luv N’ Care Ltd.’s D 617,465 patent (the ’465 patent) unpatentable. This is the first time that the USPTO has invalidated a design patent under a post-grant review process created by the America Invents Act.

The ‘465 patent claims a drinking cup. Figures 2 and 3 are reproduced below.



In January 2012, Luv N’ Care filed an infringement suit for the ’465 patent in the Southern District of New York, against Toys R Us and Munchkin (NYSD-2-12-cv-00228).

In the complaint, Luv N’ Care stated that it had “generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of goods under their trademarks and trade dress,” and that a series of competitors had allegedly “all deliberately copied [Luv N’ Care’s] designs, to illegally profit from them.”

Luv N’ Care sued the Defendants on counts of alleged infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition, federal trademark dilution, unfair competition under New York law, violation of New York general business law, and contributory infringement.

The ‘465 patent was also involved in the Luv N’ Care Ltd v. Regent Baby Products Corp, 10-9492 (S.D.N.Y filed Dec. 21, 2010), and Luv N’ Care Ltd v. Royal King Infant Prod’s Co. Ltd, 10-cv-00461 (E.D. Tex. Filed Nov. 4, 2010). Luv N’ Care settled with Royal King Infant Prod’s Co. Ltd, with Royal King agreeing to cease and desist from manufacture and sales of products likely to cause confusion.

In December 2012, Toys R Us and Munchkin (‘the Petitioners’) filed a petition for inter partes review, alleging that the ’465 patent was obvious in view of two references, US 2007/0221604 (the ’604 reference) and US 6,994,225 (the ’225 reference). This was the first inter partes review initiated by the USPTO for a design patent. 

The Patent and Trials Appeal Board (PTAB) determined that there was reasonable likelihood that the claim of the ‘465 patent would have been obvious over each of the ‘225 and ‘604 reference, and granted the petition for review.

First, Luv N’ Care argued that its ‘465 patent was entitled to an earlier effective filing date of US Application No. 10/536,106 (the ‘106 application), thereby disqualifying the ‘225 and ‘604 references. In response, the Petitioners argued that the ‘106 application lacked written description support for the ‘465 patent, based on differences in the spout.

Figures from both the ‘465 patent and the ‘106 application are shown below, as reproduced from the PTAB’s final written decision:



In its written decision, the PTAB stated the following differences “(1) the outer boundary of the spout tip of the claimed design is larger than that of the ‘106 application. … (2) the spout tip of the claimed design has a different, more rounded, oval shape than that of the racetrack shape of the spout tip in the ‘106 application; and (3) the spout tip of the claimed design has three concentric rings that the ‘106 application does not disclose.”

The PTAB further noted that although the ‘106 application stated that an oval or other shape may be used for the spout, the ‘106 application did not “identify the specific shape of the spout in the claimed design, or otherwise reasonably convey to those skilled in the art that the inventor had possession of the claimed design.” Accordingly the PTAB concluded that the ‘465 patent was not entitled to the filing date of the ‘106 application. The written decision notes that counsel for Luv N’ Care conceded that the claim was not patentable if denied the benefit of the filing date.

Second, Luv N’ Care submitted a motion to amend the patent. As reiterated by the PTAB, a motion to amend the patent must be responsive to a ground of unpatentability at issue in the trial, and it may not enlarge the scope of the claims, or introduce new matter. The patent owner bears the burden to establish that it is entitled to the relief requested by its motion to amend.

The amendment proposed by Luv N’ Care is shown in part below for Figure 3:



The PTAB stated that the “spout tip (left of center in each drawing above) is egg-shaped in the issued claim, whereas it is racetrack-shaped in the proposed amended claim. Additionally, the spout tip of the issued claim includes three concentric rings, whereas that of the proposed amended claim includes only two concentric rings.”

In its written decision, the PTAB stated that Luv N’ Care effectively argued that the proposed amended claim “is not broader than the issued claim because to ‘an ordinary observer,’ the designs are ‘substantially the same.’” However, the PTAB stated that it was not “aware of any authority that has applied the ‘ordinary observer’ test … to compare the scope of two claims.” The PTAB further noted that “the proposed amended claim is broader than the issued claim because it is broader with respect to racetrack-shaped spout tips and raised rim vents, even though it may be narrower with respect to egg-shaped spout tips and vents without raised rims.”

The PTAB held that the Petitioners had “shown by a preponderance of evidence that the sole claim of the ‘465 patent is unpatentable, and [Luv N’ Care] has not met its burden of proof on the motion to amend.”


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By Andrew M. Ollis
| April 22, 2014
In MRC Innovations, Inc. v. Hunter Mfg., LLP, No. 2013-1433 (Fed. Cir., Apr. 2, 2014), the Federal Circuit addressed the obviousness of patents covering ornamental designs for dog jerseys.  In doing so, the analysis raises questions about whether the Federal Circuit has fully moved beyond the at times dismissive approach to design patents that has characterized some of its decisions in years past.

The Decision


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