Grüneberg and Myers - Intellectual Property Law


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Design Patent to Chair Pattern Need Not Illustrate the Chair

Design Patent to Chair Pattern Need Not Illustrate the Chair

In Culver Luxembourg, Sarl v. Home Expressions, the Fed. Cir. affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Culver’s claim of design patent infringement for an ornamental design for a pattern for a chair, by a basket. Claims to Furniture (part of-) were allowed but amended to recite “A Chair” to address a PTO objection as too vague to constitute an article of manufacture.  The title, claim and figure description were amended to recite “Pattern for a Chair” although the figure only illustrated the pattern.  In a case of first impression, the Fed. Cir. answered the question of whether claim language, specifying an article of manufacture can limit the scope of a design patent, even if the article of manufacture is not actually illustrated, with a resounding, yes.  The court cited the long-standing precedent of not sanctioning design patents for a surface ornamentation and the focus of design patents on the application of design to an article of manufacture.  The Fed. Cir. rejected Culver’s reading of Glavas as interpreting design patent claims independent of the underlying article for patentability purposes and therefor for infringement. Using the ordinary observer standard for infringement, what if you turned the basket upside down and sat on it?

Richard Chinn