Design Patents

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:

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


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C&A Marketing Asserts Design Patent Infringement Claim Against GoPro’s Hero4 Session Camera

November 20, 2015
C&A Marketing, Inc. (“C&A Marketing”) filed suit against GoPro, Inc. (“GoPro”) on November 3, 2015 in the U.S. District Court District of New Jersey, alleging design patent infringement.  More specifically, in it's complaint C&A Marketing alleges that GoPro's Hero4 Session, a cube-shaped "action" camera, infringes U.S. Patent No. D730,423 (the “D'423 patent”). 

According to C&A Marketing, the D'423 patent protects the Polaroid Cube, created through C&A Marketing's capacity as the exclusive manufacturer, distributor, and marketer of Polaroid® brand mountable action cameras, among other Polaroid® brand products.  Notably, C&A Marketing states that they launched the Polariod Cube in January 2014, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, which was followed by GoPro's release of the "strikingly similar" Hero4 Session camera in 2015.

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Robert Gordon Industries and Thermos Tussle Over Tumbler Design Patent

December 13, 2015

Robert Gordon Industries, Ltd. ("Robert Gordon”) filed a complaint for declaratory judgment of noninfringement against Thermos, LLC (“Thermos”) on November 18, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.  Meanwhile, Thermos filed its own patent infringement action against Robert Gordon in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, also on November 18, 2015.

According to Robert Gordon, the declaratory judgment action was filed as a result of Thermos' continued efforts “to extract a royalty payment under two Thermos patents; United States Patent No. D622,547entitled 'Tumbler' ('the ‘547 patent') and United States Patent No. 8,348,078entitled 'Leak Proof Drinking Lid With Pressure Relief' ('the ‘078 patent')," with regard to Robert Gordon’s Empire VM-57 Tumbler, despite Robert Gordon's willingness to discontinue this product and pay Thermos a $3,000.00 royalty (based on 5% of past sales).  Robert Gordon seeks a jury trial to obtain a declaratory judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of each of the aforementioned Thermos patents. 

For its part, Thermos asserted that Robert Gordon has "manufactured, imported, sold and/or offered for sale the United States that infringe the '547 patent," such as tumbler "SKU # VM-57 Silver" offered for sale on Robert Gordon's website.   

Shown below, from left to right, are patent illustrations corresponding to Thermos' '547 patent (tumbler) and '078 patent (lid) and an image showing Robert Gordon's accused Empire VM-57 tumbler (based on Exhibit B from Thermos' complaint), respectively. 


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Nike Files Suit Against Skechers Alleging Infringement of Eight Design Patents

February 1, 2016
NIKE, Inc. (“Nike”) filed suit against Skechers U.S.A., Inc. (“Skechers”) on January 4, 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Portland Division, seeking to recover damages and costs from Skechers. In the complaint, Nike alleges Skechers infringes eight Nike design patents issued between January 7, 2014 and March 31, 2015 pertaining to shoe “uppers” and shoe soles (see Table 1 below from the complaint).

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Microsoft Alleges Corel Infringes Design Patents Directed to Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs)

February 9, 2016
Microsoft Corporation ("Microsoft") filed suit against Corel Corporation and Corel Inc. (“Corel”) in the Northern District Court of California, seeking to recover damages and costs for patent infringement.

In the complaint, Microsoft alleges Corel willfully infringes a number of Microsoft utility and design patents.  In particular, Microsoft accuses Corel of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 8,255,828 (“the ‘828 patent”); 7,703,036 (“the ‘036 patent”); 7,047,501 (“the ‘501 patent”); 5,715,415 (“the ‘415 patent”); 5,510,980 (“the ‘980 patent”); D550,237 (“the D‘237 patent”); D554,140(“the D‘140 patent”); D564,532 (“the D‘532 patent”); and D570,865 (“the D‘865 patent”), all relating to aspects of graphical user interfaces ("GUIs") used in productivity software applications, such as Microsoft Office.

The four design patents forming the basis for part of the complaint are directed to "ornamental designs for parts of Microsoft user interfaces, including the Microsoft Ribbon" and, according to Microsoft, "Corel's advertising makes the copied Microsoft interfaces one of the central selling points of Corel's products:  'With a familiar Ribbon-style interface, Corel® Office looks like the office software you're used to, making it easy to get to work right away.'" 

Accused Corel products associated with the asserted design patents include CorelCAD 2014-2016 and Corel Home Office, which includes Corel Write, Corel Calculate, and Corel Show.

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Nike Files Suit Against Fujiann Bestwinn Alleging Design Patent Infringement

March 11, 2016
NIKE, Inc. (“Nike”) filed suit against Fujiann Bestwinn (China) Industry Co., Ltd. (“Bestwinn”) on February 17, 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, alleging infringement of a number of Nike’s design patents for various aspects of athletic shoes.

In the complaint, Nike alleges Bestwinn infringes its design patents by attending the WSA trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada at least twice yearly and promoting and selling the infringing shoes. 

The patents detailed in the suit include eighteen Nike design patents issued between April 26, 2011 and December 29, 2015 pertaining to Nike's shoe designs (see Table 1 below from the complaint).

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Supreme Court to Hear Design Patent Damages Issue

March 21, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court granted Samsung’s petition for writ of certiorari in the Samsung v. Apple appeal. The grant was limited to Question 2 from the petition, which is as follows:

2. Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?

Samsung’s position in its petition is that the three design patents at issue (U.S. Design Patent Nos. D618,677, D593,087, and D604,305) “cover only specific, limited portions of a smartphone’s design: a particular black rectangular round-cornered front face, a substantially similar rectangular round-cornered front face plus the surrounding rim or ‘bezel,’ and a particular colorful grid of sixteen icons.” Samsung states that, despite this limited coverage, “the Federal Circuit allowed the jury to award Samsung’s entire profits from the sale of smartphones found to contain the patented designs—here totaling $399 million.” The Federal Circuit opinion can be found here. Contrary to the position taken by the Federal Circuit, Samsung does not believe that Section 289 of the Patent Act compels this result. Instead, Samsung’s position is that “Section 289 nowhere defines the ‘article of manufacture’ to which a patented design is applied as the entire product (here, a smartphone) rather than the portion of the product depicted in the design patent.”

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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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Recap of USPTO's Design Day 2016

April 26, 2016
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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BMW Group Files Suit Against TurboSquid

May 9, 2016
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, BMW of North America, LLC, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited, and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars NA, LLC (collectively “BMW Group”) filed suit against TurboSquid, Inc. (“TurboSquid”) on May 3, 2016 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging infringement of BMW Group’s design patents, trademarks, and trade dress.

BMW Group is seeking a permanent injunction for infringement, destruction of products, advertisements, and packaging in TurboSquid’s possession or control bearing BMW Group’s trademarks or trade dress, and recovery of TurboSquid’s profits from the alleged infringement, treble actual damages, and reasonable expenses.

The design patents detailed in the suit include six BMW Group design patents pertaining to BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce branded vehicles produced by BMW Group. These are design patents D473,165, D639,209, D664,896, D714,190, D714,687, and D724,495. The ’165 patent is titled “Surface configuration of a vehicle, toy and miscellaneous consumer products incorporating the design,” and the other patents are each titled “Vehicle, toy, and/or replicas thereof.” For illustrative purposes, images from the design patents are shown below.

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Justices Seem Unsatisfied With Design Patent Damages Tests

October 17, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. v. Apple, Inc. on Oct. 11, as to the following question presented in Samsung’s cert petition: “Where a design patent is applied to only a component of a product, should an award of infringer’s profits be limited to those profits attributable to the component?”

The oral argument drifted between a discussion of how to apply a broad test to answer the question at issue and a discussion of how to apply such a test to the specific facts of the case. But a substantial amount of the discussion focused on developing a broad test and its feasibility, as opposed to how to actually apply the test to reach a decision under the facts of the case.

Kathleen M. Sullivan, on behalf of Samsung, began the oral argument with the basic premise that it “makes no sense” to award damages to Apple for the total profit on the entire smartphone (here, $399 million) based on “a single design patent on a portion of the appearance of the phone.” Sullivan argued that 35 U.S.C. § 289 “does not require that result,” and that “Apple and the government now agree that [§] 289 does not require that result.” Instead, Sullivan requested “that when a design patent claims a design that is applied to a component of a phone or a component of a product, or, to use the language of [§] 289, when a design patent is applied to an article of manufacture within a multi-article product,” that the Court “hold that [§] 289 entitles the patent-holder to total profit on the article of manufacture to which the design patent is applied, and not the profits on the total product.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy responded skeptically: “[t]he problem is … how to instruct the jury on that point.” According to Justice Kennedy, “If I were the juror, I simply wouldn’t know what to do … under your test.” “I’d have the iPhone in the jury room; I’d — I’d look at it. I just wouldn’t know.” Essentially, Justice Kennedy explained that neither Samsung nor Apple “gives us an instruction to work with.”

Sullivan countered that it would be sufficient to tell a jury that “the article of manufacture to which a design has been applied is the part or portion of the product as sold that incorporates or embodies the subject matter” of the design patent. Then, the jury “should be instructed that total profit must be profit derived from the article of manufacture to which the design has been applied.” But Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned the practicality of implementing this type of instruction — including how to properly identify the relevant article of manufacture and how to determine the quantum of profit attributable to that article.

Addressing these two issues, Justice Kennedy referred to the “Volkswagen Beetle analogy” from the U.S. government’s amicus brief, which posited that “[i]f the design in question is the shape of the Volkswagen Beetle, for example, one might reasonably say that the either that the design determines the appearance of the automobile’s body or that it determines the appearance of the car as a whole.” (Brief for the United States as amicus curiae in support of neither party, p. 28.) Justice Kennedy hypothesized that if “Beetle design was done in three days, and it was a stroke of genius and it identified the car,” then it would be unfair to award three days' worth of profit if “it took 100,000 hours to develop the motor.” In response to a question from Justice Samuel Alito on this topic, Sullivan conceded that as to the article of manufacture, “the holder of the patent gets profit from the article, even if the profit does not come entirely from the design.”

But after further questioning from Justice Sotomayor, Sullivan asserted that “no reasonable jury could have found on this record that the entire product was the article of manufacture to which the design has been applied.” According to Sullivan, this is because “design patents cover ornamental appearance. They cannot, by definition, cover the innards of the phone.” “Just because you can show that most of the profit comes from the Beetle exterior does not mean the car is the article of manufacture.”

Brian H. Fletcher argued next for the U.S., as amicus curiae, in support of neither party. Fletcher first agreed with the Federal Circuit’s holding that § 289’s “provision for an award of total profits means that the patent-holder can recover all of the profits from the sale of the infringing articles [of] manufacture and not just the portion of the profits that the patent-holder can prove was caused by or attributable to the design as opposed to other features of the article.” But he cautioned that it is “a mistake” to read the Federal Circuit’s opinion “to have held that the relevant article of manufacture for which profits are owed is always the entire product that the infringer sells to customers.” Fletcher stated that “we understand all parties to agree with that now.” That is, when “the relevant article of manufacture to which a patented design may be applied is a part or a component of a larger product sold in commerce,” “all parties now agree that the patent-holder is entitled to only the profits from that infringing article and not to all” of the profits.

Justice Ginsburg interrupted: “When … the article of manufacture isn’t sold apart from the entire product, how should … the judge charge the jury on determining the profit attributable to the infringing article?” Fletcher responded that the fact-finder must first make a judgment as to “what’s the article of manufacture to which the design has been applied,” and then determine “how much of the total profits from the device are attributable to the infringing article.” Fletcher acknowledged that the latter has not been briefed, and that “[t]his case sort of stopped at the first step.” However, several follow-up questions forced Fletcher to explain how the latter question could be answered.

For example, Justice Kagan asked about “the hard cases,” such as how to determine what the relevant article is in the context of the Volkswagen Beetle analogy. Fletcher responded that “one can reasonably say that it’s either the body or the car,” and pointed to a four factor test described in the briefs: (1) “you should compare the scope of the patented design as shown in the drawings in the patent”; (2) “how prominently that design features in the accused article”; (3) “whether there are other conceptually distinct innovations or components in the article that are not part of or associated with the patented design”; and (4) “the physical relationship between the patented design and the rest of the article.” Fletcher then applied these factors to the Beetle analogy. When pressed on how to determine profits, Fletcher suggested that “the patent-holder make the argument that even though the article may be just a part of the product sold … really, that’s what sells it,” and argue for recovery of “a very substantial portion of the profits.”

Seth P. Waxman then argued on behalf of Apple, asserting that “whatever you determine the right [jury] instruction should be, there is no basis to overturn the jury’s damages verdict in this case,” because Samsung did not “ever identify for the jury any article of manufacture other than the phones themselves.”

Justice Stephen Breyer then steered Waxman to the broader issue of how to answer the question presented to the Court in terms of developing an applicable standard. With reference to the amicus briefs, Justice Breyer mentioned a “conclusion, which is a little vague,” where the design has “been applied to only part … of a multicomponent product and does not drive demand for the entire product,” that “the article of manufacture is rightly considered to be only the component to which the design applies. And only profit attributable to that component may be awarded.”

In response, Waxman conceded that “there is no question that in an appropriate case the jury can decide whether the article of manufacture to which the design is applied and to which it provides a distinctive and pleasing appearance could either be the article that’s actually sold to consumers, that’s bought by consumers, or it could be a component of it.” As to an applicable standard for a jury to use, Waxman stated that “the four factors that the Solicitor General articulated would be appropriate factors to consider.”

Chief Justice John Roberts appeared unconvinced: “It seems to me that the design is applied to the exterior case of the phone. It’s not applied to the — all the chips and wires [so] there … shouldn’t be profits awarded based on the entire price of the phone.” Waxman acknowledged that “[t]he profits are awarded on the article of manufacture to which the design is applied,” and the article may or may not be the “outside” part of the phone.

Justice Sotomayor asked Waxman if he agreed with the U.S. government’s “four-part test with respect to identifying just the article of manufacture.” Waxman agreed, with the caveat that “the factors that the jury will be told will depend on the evidence that the parties educe.” Rolling out the Beetle analogy yet again, Justice Sotomayor asked how to determine the profits to be awarded if the Volkswagen body is found to be the article of manufacture. Agreeing with Fletcher that the issue had not been briefed, Waxman stated that “conceptually, it is correct that under [§] 289 the patentee is entitled to the total profits on the sale of the articles of manufacture to which the design has been applied.”

Justice Sotomayor drove the point farther, using the Beetle as a good example “where the thing that makes the product distinctive does not cost all that much. There’s not been a lot of input. Somebody just — some engineer or some graphic artist or whatever woke up one day and said I just have this great idea for an appearance. But that’s the principal reason why the product has been successful.” “[T]he principal reason why the car has been successful has to do with this particular appearance, the design.” When asked if the fact that the principal reason why the car has been successful is due to the design is only relevant to the second inquiry, Waxman indicated that it would also be relevant to several factors in the government’s four-part test.

Sullivan concluded the oral argument with a brief rebuttal. She emphasized that “Congress did not say [that] you can’t segregate the proper article from the other articles that make up the product. So we can segregate [the] article from other articles within the product.” Sullivan stressed, however, that she was not attempting to apportion the value of the design in relation to the article. Rather, Sullivan asked the Court to “tell the nation’s economy that no one can claim a partial design patent on a portion of a front face of an electronic device and come in and get the entire profits on the phone.”

Overall, the representatives for Samsung, Apple, and the U.S. government all appeared willing to agree that the relevant article of manufacture for which profits may be owed under § 289 would not always be the entire product that an accused infringer sells to customers. Although the representatives proposed tests for determining the relevant article of manufacture and discussed — sometimes reluctantly — how to determine profits for such an article, the justices did not appear to be uniformly satisfied with such tests in view of the perceived difficulties of implementing them in practice.

Of course, patent attorneys love to have clear rules, clear definitions, and clear tests. Such clarity can yield clear guidance, which in turn can yield some measure of predictability for stakeholders and attorneys alike. Unfortunately, the oral argument did not do much to help patent attorneys see farther down the road as to these issues. While the oral argument gave us an opportunity to see the Court kicking the tires on various tests, we have no clarity as to whether any of these tests will have any traction. The Court seemed reluctant to favor any one particular test, meaning that once again the only thing we can see clearly is the dichotomy between the Court and patent attorneys in terms of having a clear rule, definition, and/or test. This is reminiscent of the Court’s reasoning in KSR, e.g., “Application of the bar [on patents claiming obvious subject matter] must not be confined within a test or formulation too constrained to serve its purpose” (KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., 127 S.Ct. 1727, 1746 (2007)), as much as it is reminiscent of the Court’s reasoning in Alice, e.g., “In any event, we need not labor to delimit the precise contours of the “abstract ideas” category in this case” (Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 2357 (2014)).

So, regardless of whether the Court adopts one of the proposed tests, develops another one or opts to let that Volkswagen Beetle coast down a hill, it appears likely that patent attorneys will be left to navigate on their own without clear guidance as to the destination. Unless the Court surprises us by announcing a clear rule, definition, and/or test, it appears that design patentees will continue to attempt to define their claimed article of manufacture to be as much of a sold product as possible (aiming for higher damages), whereas accused infringers will continue their attempts to place limitations on that definition (aiming to minimize damages).

And, we may be left at the side of the road when it comes to how to determine profits for such an article — however it may be defined. If expert testimony would be used (discussed as a possibility during the oral argument), one can envision an analogy to how expert testimony is used in trademark litigation as to likelihood of confusion, strength of a mark, etc. This can be incredibly subjective, and complicated by how much weight may be given to it by the Court. In the case of design patents that show any portion of the article in broken lines, the complexities of design patent litigation may be exacerbated by the use of expert testimony.

Where does this leave us in the meantime? Without knowing what test — if any — that the Court might announce, it is difficult to give concrete advice for drafting new design patent applications. However, it appears that portfolio diversity may continue to be the key to starting the car. That is, it will likely continue to be good practice in most cases to include multiple embodiments that claim different amounts of an article of manufacture in a design application. While it may also be difficult to predict exactly what type of infringing products will appear somewhere down the road, having multiple embodiments that claim different amounts of an article of manufacture may increase the chances of success for a patentee’s arguments for a broad definition of the claimed article of manufacture.

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Design Patents Remain a Valuable Part of a Patent Portfolio after Samsung v. Apple

February 2, 2017
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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Recap of USPTO's Design Day 2017

May 8, 2017
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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Apple v. Samsung, New Damages Trial Ordered Applying New Test

October 25, 2017
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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Ugg! Deckers Doesn’t Want Anyone To “Muk” Around With Their Design Patent

February 16, 2018
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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Recap of USPTO's Design Day 2018

May 4, 2018
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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When the Underdog Becomes a Top Dog

May 25, 2018
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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“Cover Up What You Don’t Want to See”: Advantek Marketing v. Shanghai Walk-Long Tools (Fed. Cir., Aug. 1, 2018)

August 10, 2018
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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Design Day 2019

May 7, 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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I burn, burn like a wicker chair; chalk white and oh-so frail…

September 16, 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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