Design Patents

DESIGN PATENT PROTECTION FOR GRAPHICAL USER INTERFACES (GUIs) TO BECOME AVAILABLE IN CHINA ON MAY 1, 2014

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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ABA-IPL: April 2-4, 2014

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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Written Description – Where do we go from here?

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 duringDesign 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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Coming out of the dark ages

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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Design Day 2014

April 15, 2014
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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MRC Innovations v. Hunter – A Decision with Bite for Design Patent Owners?

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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PTAB: Munchkin v. Luv N'Care - Final Decision in IPR

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 hasinvalidated 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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Oakley - US D523,461

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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Oakley v. Sunscape

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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What about Tesla’s Design Patents?

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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MRC Innovations v. Hunter – to the Supreme Court!

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 Kleinon 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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Skechers v. Fila

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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Patent Marking and Design Patents

July 9, 2014

It is important to remember that patent marking applies to design patents as well as utility patents.  The Federal Circuit made this clear in Nike Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, 138 F.3d 1437 (Fed. Cir. 1998), by holding that the term “damages” as it appears in the marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 287(a) applies to recovering the infringer’s profit under 35 U.S.C. § 289 as well as to the recovery of damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284. 

In reaching their decision, the Court reviewed the statutory history of the damages and profits statutes for both design and utility patents, as well as the statutory history of the marking statutes.  The Court found that the Patent Act of 1887, which was specific to design patents and removed the apportionment requirement when recovery of the infringer’s profit was sought, “was enacted to overcome the allocation problem for designs, and did not deplete the remedies available for either utility or design patent infringement.”  Id. at 1441-43.  Additionally, the Court found that the history of the marking statute supported the “conclusion that the marking statute with its use of the word ‘damages’ applies broadly to include recovery of the infringer’s profits under the special provision for design patent infringement.”  Id. at 1445.

Consequently, the new America Invents Act (“AIA”) virtual marking provision, 35 U.S.C. § 287(a), is useful for design patent owners.  The virtual marking provision states:

[p]atentees, and persons making, offering for sale, or selling within the United States any patented article for or under them, or importing any patented article into the United States may give notice to the public that the same is patented, either by fixing thereon the word ‘patent’ or the abbreviation ‘pat.’ together with the number of the patent, or by fixing thereon the word ‘patent’ or the abbreviation ‘pat.’ together with an address of a posting on the Internet, accessible to the public without charge for accessing the address . . .

35 U.S.C. § 287(a) (emphasis added).  Thus, an article covered by one or more patents, including design patents, need not list each individual patent that covers a product.  Instead, the product can be marked with the word “pat.” and list a website where the patents applicable to the article in question may be listed.

Finally, design patent owners should also be aware that the false marking statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292, applies to design patents.  See e.g. Marvellous Day Elec. (S.Z.) Co. v. Ace Hardware Corp., No. 11-8756, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122212 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 27, 2013) (assessing whether Ace intended to deceive consumers into believing that Christmas lights advertised as “patented” were made or sold by Marvellous Day); Buehlhorn v. Universal Valve Co., Inc., No. 10-559, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34429 (S.D. Ill. Mar. 31, 2011) (determining whether Universal Valve Co intended to deceive consumers by marking its products with an expired design patent number).  Accordingly, it is important to remember to not mark products with a design patent number that does not cover the product or with the number of an invalid or expired patent.

Andrew Ollis and Katherine Cappaert contributed to this post.

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Toyo Successful in Enforcing Its Design Patents at the International Trade Commission (ITC)

August 1, 2014
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) recently concluded its investigation into "Certain Tires and Products Containing Same" (Investigation No. 337-TA-894), finding in favor of Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. of Japan (hereinafter "Toyo") et al. against a sizable number of non-U.S.- and U.S.-based tire companies. A link to the notice is provided here.

In particular, previously finding certain respondents in default, the ITC issued (1) a limited exclusion order against respondents' infringing products, and (2) cease and desist orders directed against each of the Defaulting Respondents. The following Toyo design patents, directed to tire tread designs and tire sidewall designs, formed the basis for the orders:

  • US D487,424;
  • US D610,976;
  • US D610,977;
  • US D626,913; and
  • US D458,214.

Previously reported here, the orders followed Toyo's complaint filed August 14, 2013 and the ITC's subsequent decision to institute an investigation on September 16, 2013. As summarized in the Notice, the supplemented complaint alleged violation of section 337 by reason of infringement of the above-indicated design patents, as well as US D610,975; US D615,031; and US D653,200. The complaint and notice were subsequently amended to add Shandong Hengyu Science & Technology Co., Ltd. as a respondent, and several respondents were terminated from the investigation based on settlement agreements and consent orders.
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Ugg! Deckers' Design Patent Infringement Claim Is Not Kicked to the Curb

September 15, 2014
On September 8, 2014, Judge Otis D. Wright, II, U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Calif., issued an Order keeping alive a claim for design patent infringement while booting other asserted claims in a Motion to Dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). See Deckers Outdoor Corp. v. J.C. Penney Co., Inc., C.D. Cal., Case No. 2:14-cv-02565-ODW(MANx) (“Order Granting in Part Motion to Dismiss with Partial Leave to Amend,” Doc. 30, Sept. 8, 2014).

Deckers Outdoor Corporation (“Deckers”) is known for its famous UGG® sheepskin and suede boots, among other products, sold online and at retail stores throughout the U.S. According to Deckers, its UGG® line of boots began a metaphorical ascent into the stratosphere after being featured on Oprah Winfrey’s television show in 2000, when Oprah supposedly “emphatically declared … how much she ‘LOOOOOVES her UGG boots.’” See First Amended Complaint, Doc. 18, ¶ 12. This ascent continued, as many well-heeled celebrities embraced the boots and were photographed wearing them. With such a stamp of fashion approval, one can easily understand that Deckers would do whatever it could to protect its valuable image, brand, and products from harm by imitators seeking to capitalize on Deckers’ success.
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USPTO Updates PAIR User Interface to Provide Access to Hague Agreement Design Application/Patent Information

November 11, 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) recently updated its public and private Patent Application Information Retrieval (“PAIR”) graphical user interfacesto provide access to information regarding design applications filed pursuant to the Hague Agreement.  Such information will not be available, however, until entry into force of the Hague Agreement with respect to the U.S., which will occur three months after the U.S. deposits its instrument of ratification with the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”), unless that instrument specifies a later date.

Generally speaking, the Hague Agreementestablishes an international registration system which facilitates protection of industrial designs (i.e., design patents) in member countries and intergovernmental organizations (“Contracting Parties”) by way of a single, “standardized” international design application filed either directly with the International Bureau of WIPO or indirectly through an applicant’s Contracting Party.
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Riddell Sues Rawlings for Infringement of Design Patent Directed to Sports Helmet

January 8, 2015
Riddell, Inc. (“Riddell”) filed a complaint against Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc. (“Rawlings”) in the Northern District of Illinois alleging infringement of various patents related to sports equipment, including U.S. Pat. No. D603,100to a Sports Helmet. Figures from the patent are provided below.
RiddellFig1RiddellFig4















The complaint alleges that the claimed design is infringed by Rawlings’ sports helmets, including at least the Tachyon, Impulse, Quantum, Momentum, and Force model name football helmets and the baseball helmets identified with S100, S90, S80, and S70 series name.
RawlingsQuantumRawlingsS90PA
    Rawlings Quantum                      Rawlings S90PA

The complaint did not include images of the allegedly infringing helmets. However, the Rawlings helmets above, which were found via an online search, appear to have the same names as those listed in the complaint.

Interestingly, the complaint alleges that Rawlings had knowledge of U.S. Pat. No. D603,100, for example, because it was cited on Rawlings’ U.S. Pat. No. D699,895.
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Oakley Files Design Patent Infringement Suits on Successive Days

January 27, 2015
On January 22, 2015, Oakley, Inc. (“Oakley”) filed a complaint against ICU Eyewear, Inc. (“ICU Eyewear”) in the Southern District of California (3-15-cv-00150-LAB-NLS), alleging design patent infringement of U.S. D469,458directed to an Eyeglass Front; U.S. D556,818directed to Eyeglass Components; and U.S. D692,047directed to an Eyeglass. The very next day, Oakley again asserted U.S. D692,047 in the Southern District of California (3-15-cv-00162-MMA-MMD), this time against Dang Shades, LLC (“Dang Shades”).
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Ford Global Technologies LLC Files Complaint for Design Patent Infringement Against United Commerce Centers, Inc.

January 31, 2015
On January 29, 2015, Ford Global Technologies LLC (“FGTL”) filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan (2-15-cv-10394) against United Commerce Centers, Inc. (“UCC”), which FGTL believes is doing business as New World International, alleging design patent infringement of the following U.S. Design Patents, which are attributed to the 2004 Ford F-150 and the 2005 Ford Mustang. The pictures below are provided in the complaint.
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Hague Agreement Will Soon Enter into Force in the U.S. and Japan

February 13, 2015
On February 13, 2015, the United States deposited its instrument of ratificationto the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (“Hague Agreement”) with the International Bureau of World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”). As such, the treaty will go into effect for the United States three months from the deposit date, on May 13, 2015. Japan is also understood to have deposited its instrument of ratification and is expected to become a member in the same time period as the United States.

As indicated previously on this blog, the Hague Agreement, generally speaking, establishes an international registrationsystem which facilitates protection of industrial designs (i.e., design patents) in member countries and intergovernmental organizations (“Contracting Parties”) by way of a single, “standardized” international design application filed either directly with the International Bureau of WIPO or indirectly through an applicant’s Contracting Party (which will now include the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”)).

As for how the USPTO will process and examine international designs filed pursuant to the Hague Agreement, the USPTO has indicated they will soon publish their Final Rules in this regard, which are expected to go into effect on May 13, 2015 and apply to such international design applications filed on or after May 13, 2015. Among other things, U.S. design patents resulting from international design applications filed on or after May 13, 2015 pursuant to the Hague Agreement will have a 15-year term instead of the current 14-year term for U.S. design patents.
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