Better sit down: scope of design limited by claim language

In Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., a case of first impression, the Federal Circuit recently held that claim language can indeed limit the scope of a design patent.  Curver has a design patent that, although entitled “Pattern for a Chair,” merely illustrates “a design pattern disembodied from any article of manufacture.”  Curver sued Home Expressions arguing their baskets incorporated a similar pattern and infringed.  The Federal Circuit instead held that claim language can limit the scope of a design patent because “long-standing precedent, unchallenged regulation, and agency practice all consistently support the view that design patents are granted only for a design applied to an article of manufacture, and not a design per se.”

Design patents ensure repeat customers

In Automotive Body Parts Association v. Ford Global Technologies, LLC, the Federal Circuit refused to “rewrite established law to permit ABPA to evade Ford[‘s] patent rights.”  Like many auto manufacturers, Ford regularly uses design patents to protect the design of replacement parts.  In an attempt to open up the replacement part market, ABPA argued that Ford’s design patents were invalid because replacement parts are “primarily functional”, that anyone repairing a vehicle will want replacement parts that “aesthetically match” the original design.  The court rejected ABPA’s theory, holding “even in this context of a consumer preference for a particular design to match other parts of a whole, the aesthetic appeal of a design to consumers is inadequate to render that design functional.”