By Patrick Miller
| April 15, 2014
On April 8, 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hosted its 8th annual Design Day.  The schedule included Jihoon Kim, Ph.D., Deputy Director Design Examination Policy Division, Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), who presented on the topic of recent changes in GUI design application protection at KIPO.

Of particular note, for design patent applications involving Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), KIPO no longer requires specific indication of an underlying hardware product.  For example, prior to the change, a design application directed to protection for a GUI design required the GUI design to be shown with an underlying hardware product, such as a cellular telephone.  According to Dr. Kim, KIPO enacted the change to focus on the “heart and soul” of the GUI design and to minimize useless and possibly unduly limiting hardware visualization and description.


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By Philippe Signore
| April 3, 2014
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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By Philippe Signore
| March 31, 2014
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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By Philippe Signore
| March 26, 2014
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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By Patrick Miller
| March 25, 2014
The State Intellectual Property Office of China (SIPO) recently issued an order indicating that design patent protection for Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) will soon be available in China.  The order, which provides amendments to a number of sections of the Guidelines for Patent Examination, follows as an update to a previously released draft amended version of the Guidelines for Patent Examination, and becomes effective on May 1, 2014.

Notably, designs directed to human-computer interactable GUIs, including dynamic or animated GUIs, will be protectable.  However, the new provisions exclude protection for designs not directed to a product’s function or human-computer interaction, such as wallpaper on an electronic screen, turn-on/turn-off screens and graphical layout and text of a webpage. 


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