USPTO

Design Day 2010

April 8, 2010
Design Day 2010 was held on April 6 at the USPTO. A number of our attorneys walked across the street to the USPTO and attended this annual event focused on US design patents. A wide variety of speakers gave presentations, including USPTO officials, industrial designers, an ITC judge and practitioners. The following article summarizes these presentations.

Robert Spear was the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Spear is Supervisory Patent Examiner for Technology Center 2900 ("TC 2900"), which is devoted to examining design patent applications. A number of our attorneys have conducted personal interviews with Mr. Spear, and it was a pleasure to see this well-respected design examiner act in this official capacity.

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Expedited Examination of a Design Patent Application

April 12, 2010
The average time to obtain a US Design Patent under regular examination is about 15 months from filing to issue.  This pendency is short relative to Utility Patent Applications, which require on average over 35 months of examination before issuing.  However, some companies need Design Patent protection even faster.  For example, when an competitor is about to launch a similar product on the market, or when investors are demanding patent protection before further funding, or when the product is typically in vogue with consumers for only a short period of time, companies need a Design Patent as soon as possible.  In such situations, they can request the USPTO to examine their design patent applications under an expedited procedure provided under 37 CFR 1.155.  Under the expedited procedure, also known as the “Rocket Docket,” a design application issues on average within 5 months!


This expedited procedure is available upon request to any design applicant who complies with certain requirements, as discussed next.

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Design Day 2011

April 8, 2011
Design Day 2011 was held on April 5 at the USPTO. Many members of our Industrial Designs group made the short walk to the USPTO and attended this annual event focused on U.S. design patents. Design Day 2011 was organized by a number of individuals, including Oblon Spivak’s Ed Tracywho is Vice-Chair of the Intellectual Property Owners Association (“IPO”) Design Rights Committee. A wide variety of speakers gave presentations, including USPTO officials, industrial designers, a judge from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, and practitioners. The following article summarizes these presentations.

Robert Spear, Supervisory Patent Examiner for Technology Center 2900 ("TC 2900"), was again the Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Spear was also the Master of Ceremonies for Design Day 2010, which we discussed in a previous blog post. The theme for Design Day 2011 was “The World of Designs.”

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USPTO’s Rule 56 “But For-Plus” Proposal

July 26, 2011
As we previously reported, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit released in May 2011 its long-awaited decision in Therasense, Inc. v. Becton Dickinson and Co., in which it raised the standard for proving inequitable conduct and rendering a patent unenforceable.  The defense of inequitable conduct applies to both utility and design patents.  Last year, we reported on a design patent litigation where this defense was raised.

The Therasensedecision redefined the type of information that can potentially support a defense of inequitable conduct if it is withheld, misleading, or incorrect -- i.e., what constitutes “material” information.  Under the new standard, information is material only “if the PTO would not have allowed a claim had it been aware of the undisclosed prior art.”  The Federal Circuit refers to this as the “but for” standard.

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USPTO Fee Increase: Effective September 26, 2011

September 20, 2011
As a result of the Leahy-Smith Patent Reform Act, Patent Fees will increase on September 26, 2011, by about 15%.

Concerning Design Patents, fees will increase to (small entity fees shown in parentheticals):

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USPTO Proposes Dramatic Design Patent Fee Increases

February 23, 2012
The USPTO has proposed fee increases in addition to the already implemented 15% surcharge.

Concerning Design Patents, the proposal sets several modest fee increases, while others are quite substantial.  Namely, the proposed Design Patent Examination and Search Fees would each increase by several hundred dollars.  The following table compares current and proposed large entity fees.  The proposed small and micro entities fees are, respectively, 50% and 25% of the large entity fees.

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Design Day 2013

February 28, 2013
The seventh annual USPTO Design Day, which discusses current issues in design patent law, will take place on April 23, 2013. The program is open and free to all, but registration is recommended via:  http://2013designday.eventbrite.com/#

Recaps of Design Day 2011 and Design Day 2010:

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Hague Agreement: A New Chapter for Protection of Industrial Design for the United States

March 7, 2013
On March 1, 2013, Teresa Stanek Rea (Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Acting Director of the USPTO) addressed the implementation of U.S. participation in the Hague Agreement on the Director’s Forum blog in "A New Chapter for Protection of Industrial Design for the United States."

The Patent Law Treaties Implementation Act of 2012, signed by President Obama, serves as the implementing legislation for both the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs (“the Hague Agreement”) and the Patent Law Treaty.

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Design Day 2013

April 29, 2013
The 7th annual Design Day took place on April 23, at the USPTO. In attendance were about 80 USPTO employees, and roughly 200 exterior stakeholders. Robert Spear, Supervisory Patent Examiner for Technology Center 2900 ("TC 2900"), was the Master of Ceremonies. The theme for Design Day 2013 was “Designs in the New Digital Age.”

To start the day, Margaret Focarino, Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO, gave an overview of the goals for TC 2900. She noted that for the second year in a row, the focus for TC 2900 was on eliminating the case backlog for filings prior to October 2011. Progress was acknowledged. With this goal in mind, and an increase in design filings, Ms. Focarino indicated that Examiners may be added to TC 2900.

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Graphical User Interfaces

July 1, 2013
Design patents for graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and computer-generated icons are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. and abroad, with large technology companies enhancing their patent portfolios in this regard as the strategic value of such patents becomes more evident.  One high-profile, high-stakes case illustrating this point is the ongoing patent infringement saga between Apple and Samsung, which involves several design patents directed to GUIs and computer-generated icons.  Other large technology companies, such as Microsoft and Sony, are also active in the area of design patent protection for GUIs and computer-generated icons.

Whether patent protection is available for GUIs and computer-generated icons differs from country to country, and the various laws in this area are constantly evolving, or at the very least are hot topics for discussion.  For example, Taiwan’s new Patent Act, which took effect on January 1, 2013, broadened the scope of design patent protection to GUIs and computer-generated icons, among others areas.

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IPO submits comments regarding Proposed Hague Rules

February 4, 2014
As previously reported, on November 29, 2013, 78 FR 71869 was published as a proposed rule to implement the Hague Agreement. 

On February 4, 2014, the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) submitted comments on the proposed Hague rules.

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USPTO PUBLISHES REQUEST FOR COMMENTS AND NOTICE OF ROUNDTABLE EVENT ON THE WRITTEN DESCRIPTION REQUIREMENT FOR DESIGN APPLICATIONS

February 10, 2014
On February 6, 2014, the USPTO published in 79 FR 7971

  1. a notice that it will be hosting a roundtable event on March 5, 2014, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.; and
  2. a request for written comments on the following topics for discussion at the roundtable event.  Registration is required to attend in-person or by webcast.  Requests for participation as a speaker must be made in writing by February 14, 2014.  The USPTO has also published additional information on its website.
The topics for written comments and discussion at the roundtable event include:

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Interim Rule Regarding Continued Prosecution Applications

March 10, 2014
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (Office) has adopted an interim rule, effective March 5, 2014, pertaining to Continued Prosecution Applications (CPAs), which are only available for design patent applications.

A CPA is typically filed when prosecution on the merits is closed in a design patent application.  For example, after the Examiner issues a final rejection in a design application, the Applicant may file a CPA in order to continue prosecution in front of the Examiner, instead of appealing the final rejection to the Patent Trial and Appeals Board. A Request for Continued Examination (RCE) is not allowed in a design patent application.


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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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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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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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USPTO Publishes Final Rule on Changes to Implement the Hague Agreement Concerning Industrial Designs

April 2, 2015
On April 2, 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") published its Final Rule on Changes to Implement the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs ("Hague Agreement").  80 F.R. 63, pp. 17918-17971.  These changes go into effect on May 13, 2015.  Some of the changes only apply to patent applications filed on or after September 16, 2012 (e.g., power of attorney, application by assignee, inventor’s oath/declaration, and application data sheet).  Other changes only apply to patent applications filed on or after December 18, 2013 (e.g., continuing applications and filing of a certified copy of a previously-filed application).
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Design Day 2015

April 17, 2015
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 9th annual Design Day on April 14, 2015. 

The day started off with the Commissioner for Patents, Margaret (Peggy) Focarino, welcoming everyone to Design Day. Commissioner Focarino commented how much Design Day has grown over the last nine years, from a small conference room nine years ago to filling up the entire Madison Auditorium today.

Next, the Director of Design Technology Center TC 2900, Robert Olszewski, spoke about the growth of the Design Technology Center and shared statistical data regarding the Center. In particular, the Design staff now has 9 Supervisor Patent Examiners, with a plan to hire 3 more, along with creating two new art units. Additionally, there are currently 143 Examiners, and the Center plans on hiring 30 more. The average amount of time to a 1st Action is currently 13.8 months, and the average amount of time until issue is 17.3 months. Mr. Olszewski said that the Center's goal is to reduce the pendency; he also spoke about an initiative in the Center to issue an Office Action on all old cases.

Garth Rademaker, a Supervisor Patent Examiner in TC 2900, and the lead on examiner training, spoke about training in the TC. According to Mr. Rademaker, since design patents are so different from utility patents, training happens in the TC rather than Patent Training Academy, preferably on a one-on-one basis. With the hire of so many new examiners recently and 30 more examiners coming in, productivity of experienced examiners will likely be down as the new examiners are trained.

David Gerk, a patent attorney in the USPTO's Office of Pilicy and Internatinal Affairs, spoke briefly about Hague Agreement highlights. Specifically, that the Hague Agreement will take effect in the U.S. on May 13, 2015 and filings can be done directly through WIPO or indirectly through the USPTO if the USPTO is the Applicant's contracting party.

Following David Gerk’s presentation regarding Hague Agreement highlights, the next session delved into certain aspects of the highlights. Notably, the presenters discussed the following aspects: (1) the USPTO has its own dedicated “Hague” webpage, (2) the USPTO does not have its own Hague-specific filing form, so the WIPO forms must be used (updated forms will be posted on May 13, 2015); (3) the country(ies) and fees must be designated/paid at the time of filing; (4) a petition to accept color drawings is not necessary; (5) up to 100 designs may be filed for designs in the same Locarno class; (6) Hague-based design applications will be published (typically within 6 months unless early publication is requested); (7) the file history is made publicly available for an unpublished U.S. application claiming priority to, incorporating by reference, or otherwise identifying a published Hague-based design application; (8) CPAs are not available, so it is necessary to file a continuation or divisional; and (9) provisional rights are available based on publication, except a continuation or divisional application does not receive provisional rights based on the parent’s publication.  See also our previous post here regarding the Final Rules on Changes to Implement the Hague Agreement Concerning Industrial Designs.       

Sachiko Chiba, an Examiner of Household Equipment Design Division of the Japan Patent Office, traveled to Design Day to present on “Effective Utilization of the Design System in Japan.” Ms. Chiba’s presentation covered damages caused by counterfeit products, utilizing design rights and product design by companies, and design strategy and types of utilization of industrial design rights.

Just prior to lunch, a panel comprised of practitioners, draftspersons, and a USPTO representative discussed design drawing requirements and best practices for preparing design-quality drawings. Among other things, the panelists emphasized the importance of communication between practitioners and draftspersons and of providing a sufficient number of views to adequately represent the claimed design. The panelists also discussed advantages and disadvantages of including a specific color in design drawings versus including the USPTO’s “standard” pattern representation for a color and providing specific color tones or color tone ranges in the specification.

After lunch Robert Brunner (Founder/Partner of Ammunition Group) gave an entertaining keynote address entitled “Being Design Driven.” The address highlighted a number of products designed by Mr. Brunner and his company (including the Leeo smart nightlight, Beats headphones, Square credit card readers, Lyft mustache, and Polaroid cube camera) and the importance of design in the marketplace. Mr. Brunner explained that design provides an organization’s interface to the outside world and helps define who an organization is. He advised that companies should not think of design as merely one stage in product development, but as part of the conversation at every stage of product development.

After Robert Brunner’s presentation, Glen Alexrod spoke about the experience of his company, Nylabone®, and the use of Design patents. Mr. Alexrod noted he only has an average of half a second to get the attention of a customer while they walk the aisles of a pet store. Design patents help his company get the attention of customers in order to make a sale.

A panel of design experts moderated by Charles Mauro (President/Founder of MaruoNewMedia) commented on how changes in the law have impacted design experts. Cooper Woodring argued that the approach of factoring out functional features in Richardson v. Stanley Works was troubling because (1) the patent examiner examined the entire design and (2) because the entire design must always be considered in validity and infringement analyses. He suggested that there may not be any designs that should be invalid as functional. Given that a design should not be invalid as functional if the same function can be accomplished by alternative designs, he proposed that patent owners in litigation could use a strategy of creating real alternative designs (if none are readily available) to defend against charges of invalidity based on functionality.

Ronald Kemnitzer (Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech) addressed the hypothetical “designer of ordinary skill who designs articles of the type involved” in an obviousness analysis. He argued that there have been major changes in the real world of design between 1985 and 2015 that affect who should be considered a designer of ordinary skill. Thirty years ago there were 6,000 designers who were generally found in corporate design departments and these were mostly white men. Today, there are 40,000 designers of much more diverse background who are evenly split between corporations and consulting. Given the broad training received by current designers, the advent of computers, and the fact that most designers work in multiple product disciplines, Dr. Kemnitzer argued that a design expert should be competent to offer expert opinions on obviousness even if they have never designed an article of the particular type involved in the litigation.

Next, Peter Bressler (PBressler LLC) discussed confusion that arises given the verbal focus of the case law and the visual focus of design patents. Legal concepts in design patent law such as “functionality,” “designer of ordinary skill,” “ordinary observer,” and “substantially the same” are all fraught with difficulty. Because these definitions are unclear, courts and parties are forced to spend time arguing about what the definitions mean rather than focusing on the merits of the case. For this reason, he believed a broader consensus on the legal definitions used in design patent law is needed. He further argued that while the Apple v. Samsung case has increased the value of design patents at present, if the Federal Circuit overturns the 35 USC 289 standard for design patent damages awards, the value of design patents could be substantially diminished.

The final presentation of the day was given by George Raynal (Saidman DesignLaw Group LLC). Mr. Raynal provided an entertaining overview of recent decisions involving design patents. He pointed out the contrasting approaches used by district courts in deciding claim construction as well as validity and infringement. This included a review of when courts did or did not elect to provide a written claim construction as opposed to relying only on the drawings, the relevance of the prior art in an infringement analysis, the significance of the drawings, the relevance of the prosecution history (including titles), etc. He provided statistics indicating that over the past year in published decisions patent owners had an even chance of prevailing on validity, but had a tough time prevailing on infringement. Mr. Raynal also noted that there were currently 6 pending cases involving design patents at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). However, as one audience member noted, the CAFC issued Rule 36 opinions for two of those cases during Design Day. Stay tuned for blog posts on those cases.

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USPTO Hearing On Proposed Fees Set for November 19, 2015

November 18, 2015
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) are holding a public hearing on November 19, 2015 regarding proposed patent fees (a link to the Federal Register Notice is provided here). The meeting will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (EST) at the USPTO Madison Auditorium South, 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314.

Proposed fee adjustments specific to U.S. design patent applications, include the following:

  • Filing fee: increase $20 (to $200);
  • Search fee: increase $40 (to $160);
  • Examination fee: increase $140 (to $600); and
  • Issue Fee: increase $440 (to $1000).

 

The fees above, which are for a large entity, represent a total increase of $640, constitute a substantial fee increase for design patent applications as compared to the current fees. 

The proposed fee adjustments also include fees related to international design applications.

Tables containing all of the USPTO's proposed fee adjustments are located at the following URL: http://www.uspto.gov/about-us/performance-and-planning/fee-setting-and-adjusting

The USPTO will make available online a webcast and transcript of the hearing at the above URL after the hearing. 

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USPTO Publishes Request for Comments on (and Examples Addressing) the Application of the Written Description Requirement to Specific Situations in Design Applications

April 15, 2016
On April 15, 2016, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) published a Request for Comments on the Application of the Written Description Requirement to Specific Situations in Design Applications (“Request”). See 81 F.R. 73, pp. 22233-22236. In particular, the USPTO is seeking the public’s help in identifying examples “to illustrate [its] proposed approach or any suggested approachfor applying the written description requirement in design applications.” Id. (emphasis added).

Importantly, this Request also points out that “it became clear that there exists a need to supplement the current provisions in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (‘‘MPEP’’) relating to 35 U.S.C. 112 for design applications.” Id. (Stop the press! Does the Request really say that? Yes, yes it does. Please read on….)
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