Celia Murphy, Supervisory Patent Examiner for technology Center 2900 (‘TC 2900’) was the host for Design Day 2014, the 8th Annual Design Day.  Design Day 2014 appeared to have a significant increase in participants as the USPTO Madison Auditorium had only a few empty seats throughout the day.

Andy Faile, Deputy Commission for Patent Operations started the day off by highlighting two initiatives by the USPTO: interview practice, and a technical training program. Mr. Faile noted that a growing number of interviews were being conducted, benefiting examiners and practitioners alike, and that the number of requests for WebEx interviews was also increasing.


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About 12 years ago, in 2002, I co-authored an article entitled “U.S. Design Patents: an underdog that bites.” The article announced a coming-out stage for design patents:

Companies often seek broad protection for their products and technology, along with strong enforcement provisions, preferably available at a relatively low cost and via a relatively fast procedure. In the past, however, companies have often overlooked a tool that can provide such protection: the US design patent. Instead, companies have focused on trade dress protection and utility patents. In many companies, the trade mark department considered design patents to add little to trade dress protection, while the patent department considered them an inadequate tool to protect their functional inventions. As a result, design patents often fell through the cracks.


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As previously reported, the USPTO published on February 6, 2014, a Request for Comments on the Written Description Requirements for Design Applications.  The Request followed a heated discussion during Design Day 2013 when USPTO Design Practice Specialist, Mr. Joel Sincavage gave specific examples illustrating an original design claim and an amended design claim where, in the amended claim, only a subset of elements of the original disclosure were shown using solid lines.

The USPTO seemed to take the position that, in these “rare situations,” the inventor may not have had possession of the newly claimed design because the claimed subset of elements was “seemingly unrelated” to the original design.  Some members of the public attending Design Day raised concerns regarding the Office’s position. 


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The American Bar Association (ABA)’s Section of Intellectual Property Law (IPL) will be holding its 29th Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference on April 2-4, 2014, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, in Arlington, VA.  Of interest, on April 3rd at 1:45, conference participants will be able to attend a workshop entitled “The Rise of Design Protection: From Spoons & Carpets to Smartphones & Cars.” The ABA-IPL published this summary for the workshop:

Design protection has recently taken the spotlight due to some high-profile, high-stakes cases. Join these panelists for a practitioner-focused overview of design rights, where they will look into: why design patents require a different perspective from utility patents; what the most successful approaches are in prosecuting and litigating design patents; whether the approach to design rights in the U.S. is different from other countries undergoing such a surge.


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International Mulch Company, Inc. (Mulch) filed a complaint requesting declaratory judgment against Novel Ideas, Inc. (Novel) in the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division on March 11, 2014 (4-14-cv-00446).

In the complaint, Mulch requested a Declaratory Judgment of patent non-infringement and invalidity of two design patents owned by Novel, US D640,268 (’268) and US D654,191 (’191), both directed to flexible landscape edging.


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