Samsung files ITC complaint against Apple

As reported in the ITC blog, Samsung filed an ITC complaint against Apple on June 28, 2011, alleging certain electronic devices, including wireless communication devices, portable music and data processing devices, and tablet computers infringe one or more claims of U.S. 7,706,348, 7,486,644, 6,771,980, 6,879,843, and 7,450,114.

Presumably, this ITC complaint relates to the ongoing dispute we have been covering between Samsung and Apple.


ITC Investigates Certain Protective Cases and Components Thereof

As reported on Oblon’s ITC blog, the U.S. International Trade Commission  (“ITC”) has instituted an investigation in response to a complaint filed by Otter Products, LLC alleging violation of Section 337 in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain protective cases and components thereof that infringe certain U.S. patents and trademarks.  The complaint identifies twenty-nine respondents, including and other Chinese and American companies.

The asserted design patents are U.S. Design Patent Nos. D600,908, D617,784, D615,536, D617,785, D634,741, and D636,386.  According to the complaint, these design patents “protect the ornamental features of Otter Products’ unique protective case designs for handheld electronic devices, including smart phones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices.”  Some of the figures from these patents are reproduced below.


The following were identified in the complaint as some of the respondents’ protective cases and components thereof:


Famous Industrial Designs Featured in New Stamp Set

From the website of the United States Postal Service:

The Pioneers of American Industrial Design (Forever®) stamp pane honors 12 of the nation's most important and influential industrial designers. Encompassing everything from furniture and electric kitchen appliances to corporate office buildings and passenger trains, the work of these designers helped shape the look of everyday life in the 20th century.

Each stamp features the name of a designer and a photograph of an object created by the designer, as well as a description of the object and the year or years when the object was created. The selvage features a photograph of the "Airflow" fan designed by Robert Heller around 1937.


History of U.S. Design Protection

An interesting article on design patents has been recently written by Jason DuMont of the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property & Competition Law and Mark Janis of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.  The article, entitled “The Origins of American Design Protection,” traces the origins and progression of U.S. design protection, and calls for a return of design protection in the U.S. back to its roots (although the U.S. Congress is not currently contemplating any such changes).

The Abstract of the article is as follows:

Design patent protection is the oldest American form of intellectual property protection for ornamental designs, but still the most enigmatic. Congress passed the first design patent legislation in 1842, operating on the assumption that existing rules for utility patents could be incorporated en masse to protect designs. This Article questions that assumption. Drawing on new archival research and historical analysis, this Article demonstrates for the first time how the design patent system originated. We analyze the international trade aspects of the first design patent legislation, linking the legislation with a brief burst of protectionist measures associated with the Whig party. We also examine technological innovations that ushered in the first major era of American industrial design in key antebellum industries, and we analyze lobbying efforts on behalf of those industries that led to proposals for early design protection, proposals that did not assume the incorporation of patent rules. We also prove for the first time how the American design patent system originated as a knock-off of British copyright and registered design legislation, and why the American system was likely forced into a patent rubric. Finally, we conclude by offering concrete suggestions for the courts and Congress to ease the design patent system back to its original roots.

The full article is accessible here.

Any opinions and conclusions expressed in the article are solely those of the authors and should not be construed as representing the opinions or policy of Oblon Spivak.


Apple and Nokia Agree to Settlement of All Patent Litigation

We’ve discussed Apple’s ongoing litigation with Samsung here and here involving Apple’s design patents and trade dress.  This litigation is a battle being fought within a bigger international war between major technology companies, and illustrates how design rights can be a useful weapon within a well-rounded legal arsenal.

Within this context, today comes word that Apple and Nokia have agreed to a settlement of all patent litigation between the companies.  The agreement includes a one-time payment and ongoing royalties to be paid by Apple.  Though specific amount and length details of the settlement agreement are not disclosed, the amount of the settlement has been reported to be large enough to materially improve Nokia’s quarterly earnings.

This litigation began in October 2009 when Nokia filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Apple alleging that the wireless technology used by Apple in products such as the MacBook and iPhone violate patents owned by Nokia.  Apple responded with its own lawsuit against Nokia in December 2009 for allegedly violating several patents owned by Apple.  Both companies also subsequently filed complaints against each other in Europe (as with Apple and Samsung) and in the ITC (detailed here).

Although no design patents appear to have been involved in the litigation between Apple and Nokia, Apple had asserted infringement claims against Nokia related to patents directed to user interface technology.  See, for example, Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 6,239,795 (“Pattern and color abstraction in a graphical user interface”). 

Figs. 2D and 2E of U.S. Patent No. 6,239,795