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.”