Design Patents
By David M. Longo, Ph.D.
| September 23, 2019
Wicker Chair

The title above refers to a lyric from a 1998 song by Eve 6, although they used the word “cabinet” instead of “chair.” While this simple substitution of a word on my part is designed to evoke an image, the choice of words and the image evoked* can mean so much more in the world of design patents.

Yesterday, in Curver Luxembourg v. Home Expressions (Fed. Cir. Appeal No. 18-2214), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a District Court of New Jersey decision against plaintiff-appellant Curver Luxembourg. Curver sued Home Expressions for infringement of U.S. Design Patent No. D677,946, asserting that Home “makes and sells a basket that is identical to Curver’s basket in every way, including incorporating the patented overlapping “Y” design.” Home countered that its baskets could not possibly infringe Curver’s design patent, because the patent claim was limited to a chair. The district court agreed and dismissed the case, reasoning that Curver’s “original application was for a design on furniture. And what Curver got, as opposed to what it asked for, was a patent that protects against infringement for a particular “Y” design on chairs only.” Here, “in a case of first impression,” the Federal Circuit also agreed, holding that the scope of Curver’s U.S. design patent was limited to “an ornamental design for a pattern for a chair,” such that it did not read on Home’s baskets.
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By Colin B. Harris and Patrick L. Miller
| September 23, 2019

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 13th annual Design Day on April 25, 2019.

Hosted by Lakiya Rogers (SPE TC 2900) and Elizabeth Ferrill (Finnegan), Design Day 2019 began with introdutory comments from Drew Hirshfeld, Commission for Patents. 

Following Commissioner Hirshfeld, Karen Young (Director for TC 2900) discussed the state of TC2900, including various design patent-related statistics for TC 2900.  Among other information, Director Young indicated that TC 2900 would be adding more examiners, including both Supervisory Patent Examiners (SPEs) and junior patent examiners.   

David Gerk, Attorney-Advisor Office of Policy, then presented on the topic of "Beyond the USPTO: Design Developments Across the Globe."  Mr. Gerk's presentation touched on changes in international design practice, including changes in grace period in Japan (now twelve months), Singapore's new design protections, partial designs in China, and availability regarding Digital Access Service (DAS) for priority documents. 

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)'s Todd Hunter, Director of Copyright and Industrial Design Branch, followed Mr. Gerk to discuss design-related views from Canada's perspective.  Notably, Mr. Hunter highlighted Canada’s shift from 10 years to 15 years of design patent protection.

The next presenter discussed a number of recent Federal Circuit decisions involving design patents, probably most notably In re Maatita.  This presentation was followed by William LaMarca, Senior Counsel for Intellectual Property with the Office of the Solicitor, who was the USPTO's lead counsel for In re Maatita.  Mr. LaMarca shared his personal account and insight of the In re Maatita case. 

Kate Eary of Gentex Corporation presented next.  She discussed Gentex's 125-year history and the importance design has played in product evolution. 

Following lunch, Sarah Brooks from IMB Corp. provided an overview of the design culture at IBM and the impressive returns on their new design program. Ms. Brooks shared helpful lessons that she learned from implementing their design program.

Next, Dana Weiland, an Examiner in Art Unit 2919, provided her helpful perspective on searching an examining design patent applications. This presentation included a overview of classifying new applications, a behind the scenes look at an Examiner’s docket, and the steps of a sample examination. Examiner Weiland noted that design Examiners have a flip rate of less than 0.5 seconds when reviewing prior art references, which is very impressive.

Jenae Gureff then provided a report on several recent PTAB decisions. Interestingly, the decisions presented included inter partes reviews (IPR), a post-grant review (PGR), and an ex parte reexam.

Next, the Honorable Jill Hill, an Administrative Patent Judge at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board provided a view from the bench. Judge Hill’s presentation explained the options and procedures available to applicants. Judge Hill also provided some comments regarding effective briefing in design cases, which we found to be very helpful.

After a brief break, a panel of in-house counsel provided an overview of design patent portfolio management. The panelist represented Hubbell Incorporated, Eli Lily and Company, and Husqvarna Group and gave an overview of their respective organization, including how invention disclosures and inventor interaction worked.

The final presentation of the day was an overview four recent district court decisions involving design patents. The products involved in these district court cases included a wine rack, chalk holders, vehicle wheels, and promotional vehicles, again demonstrating that design patents can be a useful tool for protecting IP rights in many different types of inventions.

Design Day continues to be a well-attended, well run event that is helpful to Examiners and practitioners alike. Design Day has historically be held at the end of every April so mark your calendars for next year. However, be sure to register early as this popular event is sure to fill up quickly.


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By David M. Longo, Ph.D. & Andrew M. Ollis
| September 23, 2019
Advantek obtained U.S. Design Patent No. D715,006 (“D ’006”) on a “gazebo” without a cover, the gazebo essentially being a portable kennel. Figs. 1 and 2 from D ’006 are reproduced below.
Gazebo Image 1
During prosecution of the application that later became D ’006, the Examiner issued a Restriction Requirement. The Requirement split the application into two groups: a gazebo without a cover, and a gazebo with a cover. According to the Examiner, the “designs as grouped are distinct from each other….” Despite disagreeing with the Requirement, Advantek elected to prosecute the “gazebo without a cover” (as shown above) and cancelled a drawing that showed the gazebo with a cover. After further prosecution to overcome formalities objections and § 112 rejections, the D ’006 patent issued.

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By Philippe Signore, Ph.D.
| September 23, 2019
Almost 16 years ago, we wrote an article in Managing Intellectual Property (Nov. 2002, Issue 124) entitled U.S. DESIGN PATENTS: AN UNDERDOG THAT BITES. The article explained that companies had previously overlooked design patents, focusing instead on trade dress protection and utility patents. Yet, design patents provide their owners with the additional option of demanding the infringer's total profits under 35 USC 289. “This option may be advantageous, for example, when the infringer's total profits are substantially greater than any reasonable royalty.” “Companies are starting to appreciate the value of design patent protection and systematically consider whether their inventions deserve such protection.” Apple was such a company.
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By Colin B. Harris, Patrick L. Miller, Monica Yoon & Brian D. Fisher, Jr.
| September 23, 2019
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 12th annual Design Day on April 25, 2018. 

9:00-9:15 - "Welcome and Kick-off" - Andrei Iancu, the new Director of the USPTO, kicked off this year's event with a welcome address.

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By David M. Longo, Ph.D.
| September 23, 2019
A few years ago, I wrote an article (available here) about Deckers’ mixed success in a 2014 lawsuit against retailers JC Penney, Wal-Mart, Sears, and Dreams Footwear, for design patent infringement, trade dress infringement, and unfair competition, among other asserted causes of action, in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Since then, Deckers has tangled its laces with many other defendants over similar issues—the majority of which were before the same court.

Well, Deckers hiked back to court on Valentine’s Day to profess that there is no love for those who might tread on their design patents. Deckers laced up another five pronged Complaint—this time against Reliable Knitting Works, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and 10 other unnamed defendants—and filed suit in the Central District of California. See Deckers Outdoor Corp. v. Reliable Knitting Works and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., C.D. Cal., Case No. 2:18-cv-01217 (Feb. 14, 2018).
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By Patrick Miller
| September 23, 2019
GLO SCIENCE, INC. (“GLO SCIENCE”) recently asserted two design patents directed to mouthpieces against multiple parties in different jurisdictions. This is not the first time the two design patents have been asserted, however. The design patents have been asserted now at least eight times, leading to settlements in at least three of the cases. The multiple patent infringement suits and settlements, perhaps, underscore the valuable part design patents can play in a patent portfolio. As discussed before, some of the key advantages of design patents in the litigation context include that they are relatively difficult to invalidate, the alternative remedy of the “total profit” on an infringing “article of manufacture,” and injunction and exclusion order remedies.

Specifically, U.S. Patent Nos. D636,074 and D765,255 were asserted on January 30, 2018 against Oral Care Products, LLC in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (complaint) and against ANGELO DE SIMONE, TRUECOMPANY LIMITED, and MILLION DOLLAR SMILE, L.L.C in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (complaint).
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By Andrew M. Ollis
| September 23, 2019
On October 22, 2017, Judge Lucy Koh ordered a new trial on design patent damages in the long-running dispute between Apple and Samsung playing out its latest chapter in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Case No. 11-CV-01846-LHK, ECF No. 3530 (“Order”).

After the U.S. Supreme Court held that an “article of manufacture” in 35 U.S.C. § 289 (damages provision specific to design patents) could apply to either an article sold to a consumer or a component of the product, the case was remanded to determine whether a new trial was needed on the $399 million award Apple had obtained for Samsung’s infringement of several design patents.

As part of her analysis, Judge Koh also had to determine a new test for design patent damages under Section 289. Rejecting the tests offered by both Apple and Samsung, Judge Koh adopted the government’s suggestion, stating in conclusion:
The test for determining the article of manufacture for the purpose of § 289 shall be the following four factors:
• The scope of the design claimed in the plaintiff’s patent, including the drawing and written description;
• The relative prominence of the design within the product as a whole;
• Whether the design is conceptually distinct from the product as a whole; and
• The physical relationship between the patented design and the rest of the product, including whether the design pertains to a component that a user or seller can physically separate from the product as a whole, and whether the design is embodied in a component that is manufactured separately from the rest of the product, or if the component can be sold separately.
The plaintiff shall bear the burden of persuasion on identifying the relevant article of manufacture and proving the amount of total profit on the sale of that article. The plaintiff also shall bear an initial burden of production on identifying the relevant article of manufacture and proving the amount of total profit on the sale of that article. If the plaintiff satisfies its burden of production on these issues, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to come forward with evidence of an alternative article of manufacture. Order at 35.

Judge Koh also observed that the government’s test had largely been adopted by the one other court confronted with the same question. Order at 21, citing Jury Instructions at 15-16, Columbia Sportswear N. Am., Inc. v. Seirus Innovative Accessories, Inc., No. 3:17-cv-01781-HZ (S.D. Cal. Sept. 9, 2017), ECF No. 378. 

A new trial is expected in May 2018.  Interestingly, both parties indicated they could generally accept the government’s test (see Order at 13-14, 20), suggesting that each side believes the test is sufficiently flexible to support their point of view. As with all developments in this case, the trial will be closely watched, and another appeal is all but certain absent settlement.
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By Colin B. Harris and Patrick L. Miller
| September 23, 2019
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 11th annual Design Day on April 25, 2017.  Andrew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents, again kicked off this year's presentations with a welcome address and highlights.  Commissioner Hirshfeld also introduced Karen Young, Technology Center (TC) 2900's new director, who took over TC 2900 upon the retirement of former TC 2900 Director Robert Olszewski.

Director Young took the opportunity to introduce herself to the design patent community in attendance and wish former TC 2900 Director Robert Olszewski well in retirement.  Director Young then discussed the state of TC 2900, including statistical breakdowns of various metrics such as number of design patent application filings, backlog, pendency, and workforce, and a showcase of the design examiners in the Silicon Valley and Detroit satellite offices. 

David Gerk, Attorney-Advisor for the USPTO's Office of Policy and International Affairs, followed Director Young and discussed developments in international design protection.  Among other topics, Mr. Gerk discussed trends and developments in the Hague Agreement; various online resources pertaining to the Hague Agreement (e.g., Hague Express Database, USPTO, WIPO); topics from a recent meeting of the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) surrounding graphical user interfaces (GUIs)/icons/typeface; and ongoing projects for the Industrial Design 5 Forum (ID5) (ID5, generally speaking, is a forum focusing on "improving consistency in registration policies, cataloging office practices, promoting interoperable procedural frameworks, and protecting emerging designs such as graphical user interfaces (GUIs), animations and other new technology designs.").

Next, Todd Hunter, Director Copyright and Industrial Design Branch of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), provided statistics relating to industrial design application filings in Canada and discussed similarities/differences between industrial design practice in Canada and design patent practice in the United States.

Richard Stockton next presented on the topic of seeking early dismissal in design patent litigations.

The final discussion before the lunch break involved a panel of design examiners and design practioners discussing design patent prosecution best practices.  Notable issues addressed by the panel included why a preliminary amendment (PA) might be filed when filing a design patent application, objections/rejections based on broad titles and possible ways to prevent or overcome such objections/rejections, how to disclaim aspects of a photographic image, and appendices filed with design patent applications.    

The next presentation, after the lunch break, was given by Matthew Zacherle and Thomas Boshinski of WestRock Company, indicated to be the second largest paper packing company in the world. This presentation gave us a peek into the design process (from Mr. Zacherle, Senior Designer for WestRock) and some of the legal issues of working with designers (from Mr. Boshinski, Senior Counsel for WestRock).

The next presentation also focused on the interaction between industrial designers and intellectual property protection. Specifically, this presentation was a panel that explored how the fashion industry uses intellectual property to protect fashion designs, which can change and evolve very rapidly. Several of the presenters noted that fashion designers and fashion brands are investing in design patents.

After a short break, the presentations resumed with a mock argument that explored how prosecution can affect in claim interpretation and enforcement of design rights. The mock arguments were very well done and solicited quite a few laughs from the audience. However, the underlying message was serious; in each case, a seemingly inconsequential event during prosecution resulted in a judgement that was counter to the result that the audience expected. The takeaway was to always be thinking of how the decisions made in prosecuting a design application could affect future enforcement of the corresponding design patent.

The final presentation for Design Day 2017 was a summary of recent decisions by Joseph Anderson. Mr. Anderson provided an overview of decisions involving design patents from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and district courts, as well as the Patent Trial and Appeals Board.
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By Andrew M. Ollis
| September 23, 2019
On December 6, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long awaited opinion addressing the issue of whether design patent owners were always entitled to an infringer’s total profits of any end product, even a multi-component product. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. v. Apple Inc., 137 S. Ct. 429 (2016). The Supreme Court overturned the widely held understanding that design patent owners were always entitled to an infringer’s profits and held that total profits are not necessarily available where the patented design is one component of a multi-component product. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, and uncertainty in how its decision will be implemented, design patents remain a unique and valuable tool in a U.S. patent portfolio.
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