By Marc Albert Robinson
| July 7, 2014

Skechers USA filed a complaint against Fila in the Central District of California-Western Division, alleging infringement of US D661,884 and US D688,446, both directed to slip-on shoes, and alleging unfair competition and trade dress infringement of trade dress rights in Skechers Go Walk(R) shoe.

The complaint states a letter providing written notice of infringement was sent to Fila in July 2013, and in August 2013, Fila agreed to cease making the allegedly infringing shoe, the Amazen Memory Moc (referred to as "Version 1").  Allegedly, Fila stated it redesigned the Amazen Memory Moc (the redesign referred to as "Version 2") and agreed to cease manufacture of Version 1.  However, the Complaint states Version 1 "is still available for purchase nearly one year after Skechers' written notice." Complaint, pages 3 and 20.

Version 1 is alleged to infringe the trade dress of the Skechers Go Walk(R) shoe as well as both US D661,884 and US D688,446, while Version 2 is alleged to infringe only US D661,884.  Images from the complaint embodying the allegations are reproduced below:

[US D661,884]

[US D688,446]

[Trade Dress illustration: Skechers Go Walk(R) (top); Fila Amazen Memory Moc (Version 1) (bottom)]


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By Marc Albert Robinson
| July 2, 2014

On July 1, 2014, MRC Innovations filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States.  As we previously discussed on 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 (i.e., D634,488 and D634,487) covering ornamental designs for dog jerseys.

Figures from the ‘488 patent are reproduced below:

Figures from the ’487 patent are reproduced below:

MRC appealed a grant of summary judgment of obviousness of both patents  issued by Judge Gaughan from the Northern District of Ohio.  The Federal Circuit affirmed.

In the Petition, MRC proposes a question as to whether the principle set forth in KSR Int’l v. Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007), "that when making an obviousness determination under 35 U.S.C. § 103 a court must provide an explicit analysis regarding whether there was an apparent reason to combine the known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent, also applies to design patents." Petition, page i.

The Petition argues "[a]s properly noted by the Federal Circuit more than 30 years ago, '35 U.S.C. § 103 (and all the case law interpreting that statute) applies with equal force to a determination of the obviousness of either a design or utility patent.' Litton Systems, Inc. v. Whirlpool Corp., 728 F.2d 1423, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1984)," but that "the Federal Circuit has significantly departed from this Court’s case law regarding 35 U.S.C. § 103 insofar as design patents are concerned." Petition, page 5.

Citing to KSR, the Petition argues that instead of a court providing "an explicit analysis explaining the apparent reason to combine known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent" for design patent cases, the Federal Circuit has rather relied on a "'so related' test in design patent cases that, when applied, entirely dispenses with the requirement that the court articulate whether there was an apparent reason (i.e., a “basis”) to combine the known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent." Petition, pages 5-6.

In summary, MRC is arguing that the court must articulate a rationale for combining teachings of the prior art to arrive at the claimed design.  In utility patent cases, this "rationale" must be articulated, consistent with KSR.  See the exemplary rationales identified in MPEP 2143.

The Petition argues that the Federal Circuit erred by merely requiring that certain elements of the claimed design be found in a related prior art, and that such a "so related" test is an "over simplification that substitutes relatedness for obviousness." Petition, page 18.

In some aspects, it appears MRC is arguing that the Federal Circuit applied a test similar to determining whether a prior art reference is analogous art.  In re Klein, 98 USPQ2d 1991 (Fed. Cir. June 2011), established two tests for determining whether a reference is analogous and thus qualifies as prior art for an obviousness determination, citing to In re Bigio, 381 F.3d 1320, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2004):

Two separate tests define the scope of analogous prior art:
(1) whether the art is from the same field of endeavor, regardless of the problem addressed and,
(2) if the reference is not within the field of the inventor’s endeavor, whether the reference still is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor is involved.

The USPTO issued examination guidance in view of In re Klein on July 26, 2011, which emphasized that a "reference not in the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention must be reasonably pertinent to the problem to be solved in order to qualify as analogous art and be applied in an obviousness rejection."

Turning back to the "so related" test discussed in the Petition, this test appears to be a summarization of the analogous art tests discussed above.  Specifically, a reference is "so related" when it is in the same field of endeavor (first test) or when the reference is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor is involved (second test).  For design cases, this second test may have limited applicability, because evaluation of the issue (at least as established by the USPTO in the examination guidance) requires a review of the problem to be solved by the claimed design, which may be difficult given there is generally no detailed discussion of problems in design applications.

However, merely concluding a prior art reference that teaches a specific design element is in the same field of endeavor, and is thus "so related," does not result in a proper and complete conclusion of obviousness.  Specifically, the Supreme Court in KSR, 550 U.S. at 418, quoting In re Kahn, 441 F.3d 977, 988, 78 USPQ2d 1329, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2006), stated “rejections on obviousness cannot be sustained by mere conclusory statements; instead, there must be some articulated reasoning with some rational underpinning to support the legal conclusion of obviousness.” 

Consequently, it appears MRC is arguing that the Federal Circuit merely applied a test to determine whether a prior art reference is analogous (i.e., "so related") in determining whether prior art design elements can render a design obvious, without establishing an "articulated reasoning" for combining the prior art design elements to arrive at the claimed design.  Specifically, the Petition argues the “'so related' test allows for ... random picking and choosing of elements from the prior art without articulating any reasons or basis for doing so," and is thus not in accordance with the principle of KSR.


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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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