USPTO
By Colin B. Harris and Patrick L. Miller
| May 24, 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 Colin B. Harris, Patrick L. Miller, Monica Yoon & Brian D. Fisher, Jr.
| May 24, 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 Colin B. Harris and Patrick L. Miller
| May 24, 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 Colin B. Harris
| May 24, 2019
The USPTO's Design Day 2016, held April 19th, started off with a welcoming address from the Commissioner for Patents, Andrew Hirshfeld. Commissioner Hirshfeld noted the increasing importance of design patents, as U.S. design patent application filings have increased from 11,000 in 1987 to 37,000 in 2015. Commissioner Hirschfeld encouraged everyone to submit comments and examples for the application of the Written Description Requirement in Design Applications, which was published on April 15, 2016 (reported here). Commissioner Hirshfeld also announced that 15 design examiners will be working out of the USPTO's San Jose satellite office.
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By David. M. Longo, Ph.D.
| May 24, 2019
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 approach for 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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By David Nguyen
| May 24, 2019
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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By Colin B. Harris
| May 24, 2019
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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By Colin B. Harris
| May 24, 2019
On April 14, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ("CAFC") affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s decision that Luv N' Care's U.S. Patent Number D617,465 ("the '465 patent") was unpatentable. The PTAB’s decision was the first inter partes review initiated by the USPTO for a design patent. The CAFC issued a Rule 36 judgment that affirmed this decision without opinion.  For reference, Figures 2 and 3 from the '465 patent are provided below.   
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By David. M. Longo, Ph.D.
| May 24, 2019
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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By Patrick Miller
| May 24, 2019
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) recently updated its public and private Patent Application Information Retrieval (“PAIR”) graphical user interfaces to 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 Agreement establishes 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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