Design Patents

MRC Innovations v. Hunter – A Decision with Bite for Design Patent Owners?

April 22, 2014
In MRC Innovations, Inc. v. Hunter Mfg., LLP, No. 2013-1433 (Fed. Cir., Apr. 2, 2014), the Federal Circuit addressed the obviousness of patents covering ornamental designs for dog jerseys.  In doing so, the analysis raises questions about whether the Federal Circuit has fully moved beyond the at times dismissive approach to design patents that has characterized some of its decisions in years past.

The Decision

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

May 1, 2014
On April 21, 2014 the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued a final written decision in Munchkin Inc. et al. v. Luv N’ Care Ltd. (IPR2013-00072), the inter partes review of Luv N’ Care Ltd.’s design patent for a baby drinking cup.

The PTAB found Luv N’ Care Ltd.’s D 617,465 patent (the ’465 patent) unpatentable. This is the first time that the USPTO hasinvalidated a design patent under a post-grant review process created by the America Invents Act.

The ‘465 patent claims a drinking cup. Figures 2 and 3 are reproduced below.



In January 2012, Luv N’ Care filed an infringement suit for the ’465 patent in the Southern District of New York, against Toys R Us and Munchkin (NYSD-2-12-cv-00228).

In the complaint, Luv N’ Care stated that it had “generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from the sale of goods under their trademarks and trade dress,” and that a series of competitors had allegedly “all deliberately copied [Luv N’ Care’s] designs, to illegally profit from them.”

Luv N’ Care sued the Defendants on counts of alleged infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition, federal trademark dilution, unfair competition under New York law, violation of New York general business law, and contributory infringement.

The ‘465 patent was also involved in the Luv N’ Care Ltd v. Regent Baby Products Corp, 10-9492 (S.D.N.Y filed Dec. 21, 2010), and Luv N’ Care Ltd v. Royal King Infant Prod’s Co. Ltd, 10-cv-00461 (E.D. Tex. Filed Nov. 4, 2010). Luv N’ Care settled with Royal King Infant Prod’s Co. Ltd, with Royal King agreeing to cease and desist from manufacture and sales of products likely to cause confusion.

In December 2012, Toys R Us and Munchkin (‘the Petitioners’) filed a petition for inter partes review, alleging that the ’465 patent was obvious in view of two references, US 2007/0221604 (the ’604 reference) and US 6,994,225 (the ’225 reference). This was the first inter partes review initiated by the USPTO for a design patent. 

The Patent and Trials Appeal Board (PTAB) determined that there was reasonable likelihood that the claim of the ‘465 patent would have been obvious over each of the ‘225 and ‘604 reference, and granted the petition for review.

First, Luv N’ Care argued that its ‘465 patent was entitled to an earlier effective filing date of US Application No. 10/536,106 (the ‘106 application), thereby disqualifying the ‘225 and ‘604 references. In response, the Petitioners argued that the ‘106 application lacked written description support for the ‘465 patent, based on differences in the spout.

Figures from both the ‘465 patent and the ‘106 application are shown below, as reproduced from the PTAB’s final written decision:



In its written decision, the PTAB stated the following differences “(1) the outer boundary of the spout tip of the claimed design is larger than that of the ‘106 application. … (2) the spout tip of the claimed design has a different, more rounded, oval shape than that of the racetrack shape of the spout tip in the ‘106 application; and (3) the spout tip of the claimed design has three concentric rings that the ‘106 application does not disclose.”

The PTAB further noted that although the ‘106 application stated that an oval or other shape may be used for the spout, the ‘106 application did not “identify the specific shape of the spout in the claimed design, or otherwise reasonably convey to those skilled in the art that the inventor had possession of the claimed design.” Accordingly the PTAB concluded that the ‘465 patent was not entitled to the filing date of the ‘106 application. The written decision notes that counsel for Luv N’ Care conceded that the claim was not patentable if denied the benefit of the filing date.

Second, Luv N’ Care submitted a motion to amend the patent. As reiterated by the PTAB, a motion to amend the patent must be responsive to a ground of unpatentability at issue in the trial, and it may not enlarge the scope of the claims, or introduce new matter. The patent owner bears the burden to establish that it is entitled to the relief requested by its motion to amend.

The amendment proposed by Luv N’ Care is shown in part below for Figure 3:



The PTAB stated that the “spout tip (left of center in each drawing above) is egg-shaped in the issued claim, whereas it is racetrack-shaped in the proposed amended claim. Additionally, the spout tip of the issued claim includes three concentric rings, whereas that of the proposed amended claim includes only two concentric rings.”

In its written decision, the PTAB stated that Luv N’ Care effectively argued that the proposed amended claim “is not broader than the issued claim because to ‘an ordinary observer,’ the designs are ‘substantially the same.’” However, the PTAB stated that it was not “aware of any authority that has applied the ‘ordinary observer’ test … to compare the scope of two claims.” The PTAB further noted that “the proposed amended claim is broader than the issued claim because it is broader with respect to racetrack-shaped spout tips and raised rim vents, even though it may be narrower with respect to egg-shaped spout tips and vents without raised rims.”

The PTAB held that the Petitioners had “shown by a preponderance of evidence that the sole claim of the ‘465 patent is unpatentable, and [Luv N’ Care] has not met its burden of proof on the motion to amend.”

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Oakley - US D523,461

May 13, 2014
Over the past few years Oakley Inc. (“Oakley”) has relied heavily on design patents to protect its product line.  Most recently, Oakley filed a complaint for patent infringement against Thermor Ltd. (Thermor), Fry’s Electronics, Inc. (Fry), Best Buy Co. Inc. (Best Buy), Tool King LLC. d/b/a/ Toolking.com (Toolking), Laptop Travel, LLC., and Beach Trading Co., Inc. d/b/a/ Buydig.com (Buydig), (collectively “Defendants”) on February 14, 2014, in the Southern District of California (14CV0349-GPC-DHB).

In the complaint, Oakley asserted that the Defendants manufactured, used, sold, offered for sale and/or imported into the United States, eyewear allegedly infringing Oakley’s Design Patent No. D523,461 (’461 patent), directed to an Eyeglass Component.  As discussed further below, Oakley has asserted the ‘461 patent on numerous occasions in the past.

Oakley previously sued Hire Order, Ltd. on June 2012, (3:12-cv-02346-DMS-WMC) over its ‘461 patent, demanding that Hire cease the sales of its Sportsman Eyewear video recording system.

In this case, Oakley claims Thermor was “knowingly, intentionally and willfully directly infring[ing], engag[ing] in acts of contributory infringement, and /or induc[ing] the infringement of the D461 patent by directly and/or directly making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing eyewear covered by the D461 patent.” Oakley listed Thermor’s BIOS Eyewear Cam as an allegedly infringing product.

Oakley made similar statements regarding Fry, and Fry’s BIOS Eyewear Cam, Best Buy and Best Buy’s Thermor – BIOS Eyewear Cam, Laptop Travel and their BIOS Eyewear Action Cam, as well as Toolking and Buydig for their Thermor 604FC BIOS Eyeware Action Camera.

Reproduced below is Figure 1 of the D461 patent, and a representation of the Thermor 604FC BIOS Eyeware Action Camera as listed on the Buydig.com website.



In the complaint, Oakley noted that the Defendant’s alleged acts of infringement were undertaken without license from Oakley, that Defendants had “actual and/or constructive knowledge of the D461 patent … [and] infringed the D461 Patent with reckless disregard of Oakley’s patent rights.” Oakley further argued that “Defendants knew, or it was so obvious that Defendants should have known” that their actions constituted infringement.

Oakley requested a preliminary and permanent injunction, damages allegedly suffered by Oakley and/or Defendants’ total profit from the alleged infringement, with treble damages. Oakley further requested an award of attorney fees, and pre-judgment and post-judgment costs. A jury by trial was demanded.

This case is ongoing.

The ’461 patent was also asserted by Oakley in the cases listed below, several of which are ongoing.

Case Number

Date Filed

Date Terminated

Outcome

Court

Note

8:11-cv-00456-JVS-PLA

03/22/11

06/28/12

Dismissed without Prejudice

Central District of California (Southern Division – Santa Ana)

 

3:11-cv-01305-DMS-WMC

06/14/11

04/02/12

Default Judgment

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:13-cv-01292-DMS-WMC

06/04/13

09/04/13

Dismissed with Prejudice

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

5:11-cv-01975-JKG

03/22/11

05/12/11

Voluntary Dismissal by Plaintiff

Eastern Distirct of Pennsylvania (Allentown)

Oakley as Defendant

1:11-cv-00034-LRR

03/21/11

08/02/11

Dismissed in deference to parallel action

Northern District of Iowa (Cedar Rapids)

Oakley as Defendant

2:09-cv-00624-JVS-AN

01/27/09

07/29/09

Default Judgment

Central District of California (Western Division – Los Angeles)

 

8:09-cv-00062-JVS-AN

01/14/09

08/25/09

Dismissed with Prejudice

Central District of California (Southern Division – Santa Ana)

 

3:12-cv-02346-DMS-RBB

09/26/12

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:14-cv-00349-DMS-RBB

02/14/14

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

3:14-cv-00270-LAB-BLM

02/14/14

N/A

Ongoing

Southern District of California (San Diego)

 

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Oakley v. Sunscape

May 29, 2014
Once again going on the offensive by asserting design patents in its portfolio, Oakley, Inc. (Oakley) filed a complaint for patent infringement against Sunscape Eyewear, Inc. (Sunscape) on February 14, 2014, in the Southern District of California (14Cv0358-BTM-DHB).

The complaint relates to the following thirteen design patents:

  • D462,375 (‘375 patent), issued in 2002, claiming Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D581,444 (‘444 patent), issued in 2008, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D581,443 (‘443 patent), issued in 2008, claiming Eyeglasses Components,
  • D569,412 (‘412 patent), issued in 2008, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D649,579 (‘579 patent), issued in 2011, claiming an Eyeglass,
  • D564,571 (‘571 patent), issued in 2008, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components,
  • D547,794 (‘794 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglasses,
  • D554,689 (‘689 patent), issued in 2007, claiming an Eyeglass frame,
  • D556,818 (‘818 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D557,326 (‘326 patent), issued in 2007, claiming Eyeglass Components,
  • D616,919 (‘919 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass Front,
  • D610,604 (‘604 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass and Eyeglass Components, and
  • D620,970 (‘970 patent), issued in 2010, claiming an Eyeglass Component.
Oakley asserted that the Defendant allegedly manufactured, sold, offered for sale and/or imported into the United States eyewear allegedly infringing Oakley’s patent rights.

Oakley further asserted that it had provided the public with constructive notice of its patent rights by marking its products.

In the complaint, Oakley claimed that the Defendant was “knowingly, intentionally and willfully infring[ing] … [the above-noted design patents] by making, using, selling, offering for sale and/or importing eyewear” allegedly covered by these design patents.

Oakley asserted that the Defendant had knowledge of the patents, infringed with reckless disregard for Oakley’s patent rights, and knew or should have known that its actions constituted infringement.

Exhibits in the complaint included the above-noted patents, together with representations of the products allegedly infringing these patents. These representations, along with selected Figures from Oakley’s patents, are reproduced alongside in the chart below.



Oakley requested that its thirteen patents be deemed valid and willfully infringed, with a preliminary and permanent injunction against the Defendant, and payment of “all damages suffered by Oakley and/or Defendant’s total profit from such infringement” to Oakley. Further demands included a trebling of damages, an award of attorney fees, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interests and costs. A jury trial was requested.

This case is ongoing.

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What about Tesla’s Design Patents?

June 17, 2014
Tesla Motors announced in a blog post on June 12, 2014 that Tesla “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.” It appears that Tesla’s goal is encourage the expansion of electric vehicle technology “in the spirit of the open source movement.” Tesla has been issued hundreds of utility patents since its inception.  It remains to be seen if this strategy will work to Tesla’s advantage and if other companies will follow suit.

But what about Tesla’s design Patents?

Tesla is active with design patents.  Over the last two years, Tesla has been issued several design patents that range from wheels to vehicle display mounts and vehicle designs.  Additional design patents are probably on their way.  The table below lists the design patents that have been issued to Tesla.

Tesla probably would not view copying or even improvement on its design patents as a “good faith” use of their technology.  Opening up Tesla’s designs to its competition would hardly advance electric vehicle technology.  Design patents, which are ornamental in nature, help a company differentiate itself from its competition, establish goodwill, and provide a strong source of protection.  Tesla would probably view any use of its designs by its competitors as “bad faith.” 

Likely, the last thing Tesla would want to see is a fleet of electric cars from multiple manufacturers that look exactly like Tesla’s vehicle designs.  Nor would Tesla likely be pleased to see a competitor design an internal combustion engine vehicle that copies Tesla’s Model S.



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MRC Innovations v. Hunter – to the Supreme Court!

July 2, 2014

On July 1, 2014, MRC Innovations filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court of the United States.  As we previously discussed on April 22, 2014, in MRC Innovations, Inc. v. Hunter Mfg., LLP, No. 2013-1433 (Fed. Cir., Apr. 2, 2014), the Federal Circuit addressed the obviousness of patents (i.e., D634,488 and D634,487) covering ornamental designs for dog jerseys.

Figures from the ‘488 patent are reproduced below:

Figures from the ’487 patent are reproduced below:

MRC appealed a grant of summary judgment of obviousness of both patents  issued by Judge Gaughan from the Northern District of Ohio.  The Federal Circuit affirmed.

In the Petition, MRC proposes a question as to whether the principle set forth in KSR Int’l v. Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., 550 U.S. 398 (2007), "that when making an obviousness determination under 35 U.S.C. § 103 a court must provide an explicit analysis regarding whether there was an apparent reason to combine the known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent, also applies to design patents." Petition, page i.

The Petition argues "[a]s properly noted by the Federal Circuit more than 30 years ago, '35 U.S.C. § 103 (and all the case law interpreting that statute) applies with equal force to a determination of the obviousness of either a design or utility patent.' Litton Systems, Inc. v. Whirlpool Corp., 728 F.2d 1423, 1441 (Fed. Cir. 1984)," but that "the Federal Circuit has significantly departed from this Court’s case law regarding 35 U.S.C. § 103 insofar as design patents are concerned." Petition, page 5.

Citing to KSR, the Petition argues that instead of a court providing "an explicit analysis explaining the apparent reason to combine known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent" for design patent cases, the Federal Circuit has rather relied on a "'so related' test in design patent cases that, when applied, entirely dispenses with the requirement that the court articulate whether there was an apparent reason (i.e., a “basis”) to combine the known elements in the fashion claimed by the patent." Petition, pages 5-6.

In summary, MRC is arguing that the court must articulate a rationale for combining teachings of the prior art to arrive at the claimed design.  In utility patent cases, this "rationale" must be articulated, consistent with KSR.  See the exemplary rationales identified in MPEP 2143.

The Petition argues that the Federal Circuit erred by merely requiring that certain elements of the claimed design be found in a related prior art, and that such a "so related" test is an "over simplification that substitutes relatedness for obviousness." Petition, page 18.

In some aspects, it appears MRC is arguing that the Federal Circuit applied a test similar to determining whether a prior art reference is analogous art.  In re Klein, 98 USPQ2d 1991 (Fed. Cir. June 2011), established two tests for determining whether a reference is analogous and thus qualifies as prior art for an obviousness determination, citing to In re Bigio, 381 F.3d 1320, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2004):

Two separate tests define the scope of analogous prior art:
(1) whether the art is from the same field of endeavor, regardless of the problem addressed and,
(2) if the reference is not within the field of the inventor’s endeavor, whether the reference still is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor is involved.

The USPTO issued examination guidance in view of In re Kleinon July 26, 2011, which emphasized that a "reference not in the same field of endeavor as the claimed invention must be reasonably pertinent to the problem to be solved in order to qualify as analogous art and be applied in an obviousness rejection."

Turning back to the "so related" test discussed in the Petition, this test appears to be a summarization of the analogous art tests discussed above.  Specifically, a reference is "so related" when it is in the same field of endeavor (first test) or when the reference is reasonably pertinent to the particular problem with which the inventor is involved (second test).  For design cases, this second test may have limited applicability, because evaluation of the issue (at least as established by the USPTO in the examination guidance) requires a review of the problem to be solved by the claimed design, which may be difficult given there is generally no detailed discussion of problems in design applications.

However, merely concluding a prior art reference that teaches a specific design element is in the same field of endeavor, and is thus "so related," does not result in a proper and complete conclusion of obviousness.  Specifically, the Supreme Court in KSR, 550 U.S. at 418, quoting In re Kahn,441 F.3d 977, 988, 78 USPQ2d 1329, 1336 (Fed. Cir. 2006), stated “rejections on obviousness cannot be sustained by mere conclusory statements; instead, there must be some articulated reasoning with some rational underpinning to support the legal conclusion of obviousness.” 

Consequently, it appears MRC is arguing that the Federal Circuit merely applied a test to determine whether a prior art reference is analogous (i.e., "so related") in determining whether prior art design elements can render a design obvious, without establishing an "articulated reasoning" for combining the prior art design elements to arrive at the claimed design.  Specifically, the Petition argues the “'so related' test allows for... random picking and choosing of elements from the prior art without articulating any reasons or basis for doing so," and is thus not in accordance with the principle of KSR.

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Skechers v. Fila

July 7, 2014

Skechers USA filed a complaint against Fila in the Central District of California-Western Division, alleging infringement of US D661,884 and US D688,446, both directed to slip-on shoes, and alleging unfair competition and trade dress infringement of trade dress rights in Skechers Go Walk(R) shoe.

The complaint states a letter providing written notice of infringement was sent to Fila in July 2013, and in August 2013, Fila agreed to cease making the allegedly infringing shoe, the Amazen Memory Moc (referred to as "Version 1").  Allegedly, Fila stated it redesigned the Amazen Memory Moc (the redesign referred to as "Version 2") and agreed to cease manufacture of Version 1.  However, the Complaint states Version 1 "is still available for purchase nearly one year after Skechers' written notice." Complaint, pages 3 and 20.

Version 1 is alleged to infringe the trade dress of the Skechers Go Walk(R) shoe as well as both US D661,884 and US D688,446, while Version 2 is alleged to infringe only US D661,884.  Images from the complaint embodying the allegations are reproduced below:

[US D661,884]

[US D688,446]

[Trade Dress illustration: Skechers Go Walk(R) (top); Fila Amazen Memory Moc (Version 1) (bottom)]

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Patent Marking and Design Patents

July 9, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Ollis and Katherine Cappaert contributed to this post.

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Ugg! Deckers' Design Patent Infringement Claim Is Not Kicked to the Curb

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

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

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















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

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

Interestingly, the complaint alleges that Rawlings had knowledge of U.S. Pat. No. D603,100, for example, because it was cited on Rawlings’ U.S. Pat. No. D699,895.
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Ford Global Technologies LLC Files Complaint for Design Patent Infringement Against United Commerce Centers, Inc.

January 31, 2015
On January 29, 2015, Ford Global Technologies LLC (“FGTL”) filed a complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan (2-15-cv-10394) against United Commerce Centers, Inc. (“UCC”), which FGTL believes is doing business as New World International, alleging design patent infringement of the following U.S. Design Patents, which are attributed to the 2004 Ford F-150 and the 2005 Ford Mustang. The pictures below are provided in the complaint.
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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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Munchkin v. Luv N’Care – CAFC Affirms PTAB

April 16, 2015
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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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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Apple v Samsung – Design Patents Hold Firm, Trade Dress Gives Way

June 15, 2015
On May 18, 2015, the Federal Circuit issued its long-awaited decision on Samsung’s appeal of Apple’s nearly $930 million 2014 judgment for infringement of Apple’s design patents and utility patents covering various smart phones and tablets, and for dilution of its trade dresses. See Federal Circuit Appeal Nos. 2014-1335, 2015-1029.  See also our previous discussions regarding the Apple-Samsung dispute here and here
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Oakley v. 7-Eleven

July 13, 2015
Oakley, Inc. (“Oakley”) filed suit against 7-Eleven, Inc. (7-Eleven) on June 25, 2015 in the District Court for the Southern District of California.  In its Complaint, Oakley alleges that certain products sold and/or offered for sale at 7-Eleven stores infringe the following design patents: 
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Design Patent Litigations Chart Their Own Course

July 28, 2015
Design patent litigations have frequently been in the news the past few years, particularly since Apple and Samsung began battling against each other in the Northern District of California. With the America Invents Act (AIA) also affecting the number of utility patent cases that have been filed, we wondered whether the number of design patent litigations has increased or decreased over the past few years. While the statistics we reviewed indicate no clear trend, we suggest three conclusions that might be drawn from the statistics.
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WIPO Announces Update to Its Global Design Database

August 6, 2015
On August 5, 2015, WIPO announced (available here) that its Global Design Database (available here) has added more than 1 million design documents based on data from the U.S., Japan, and Spain.

According to the announcement, users can now use the Global Design Database to search industrial designs registered under the WIPO-administered Hague System*, as well as designs from the U.S., Japan, Spain, Canada, and New Zealand. WIPO indicates that it plans to add other countries’ design data “in the coming months.”

The Global Design Database includes a user-friendly customizable interface, including various search categories, filters, and sorting capabilities.

As of this posting, the Global Design Database reports contents of 1.2 million design documents drawn from among 153,044 Canadian designs, 479,755 Japanese designs, 482,444 U.S. designs, 93,683 Spanish designs, 44,132 New Zealand designs, and 40,762 International (Hague) designs.

*The WIPO-administered Hague System has been previously discussed on this blog (here, here, here, and here). More information about the Hague system can be found here.
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Lumetique, Inc. v. Blyth, Inc. and PartyLite Gifts, Inc.

September 11, 2015
Lumetique, Inc. (“Lumetique”) filed suit against Blyth, Inc. and PartyLite Gifts, Inc. (collectively, “Defendants”) on September 4, 2015 in the District Court for the District of Connecticut. Please note that Oblon represents Lumetique in this matter.

In its Complaint, Lumetique alleges that “Defendants manufacture, import, offer for sale, and sell certain candle products, including the Nature’s Light series of candles” that infringe two utility patents and two design patents. Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Defendants infringe U.S. Patent Nos. 8,961,171; 9,039,409; D643,554; and D644,359.  By way of example, Figure 1 from D644,359 and Figure 1 from D643,554 are provided below, respectively:
image2Image1


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Hoist v. Health In Motion, Inspire Fitness and Sunset Swings, and Does 1-10

September 24, 2015
Hoist Fitness Systems, Inc. (“Hoist”) filed a Complaint against Health In Motion, LLC (“Health In Motion”), Inspire Fitness and Sunset Swings (“Inspire Fitness”), and Does 1-10 (collectively, “Defendants”) on August 31, 2015 in the District Court for the Southern District of California. Incidentally, the Complaint specifies that the fictitious defendants named “Does 1-10” “include, but are not limited to, any subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or parent companies of Health In Motion.”

In its Complaint, Hoist alleges “patent infringement, trade dress infringement, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment with regard to Hoist’s intellectual property rights.”
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