Thursday, December 2, 2010

Update: Fashion Design Protection

As discussed here a while back, Congress has been mulling over the idea of amending Section 1301 of the copyright statute - which currently only protects vessel hull and deck designs - to include fashion designs.

Well, things are starting to look up for the fashion industry. Yesterday, Senate Bill S.3728 (also known as the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act), which was introduced by Sen. Schumer of New York on August 5, was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill, with minor modifications, now moves on for consideration by the full Senate.

Here are some highlights:

  • Protects appearance as a whole of an article of apparel, including its ornamentation

  • Covers clothing, undergarmets, outerwear, handbags, suitcases, belts and eyeglass frames, among others

  • Must be original and unique

  • Employs a "substantially identical" infringement standard, similar to trademark

  • 3-year term of protection (10 years for vessel hulls)

  • 3 year public disclosure bar (no registration required)

  • Home Sewing Exception: a person may make a single copy of a protected design for home use only

  • As with all things copyright, there is an independent creation defense (using a totality of the circumstances analysis)

  • Does not protect illustrations or pictures of the design, such as in advertising (or, dare I say, virtual design representations)

I know many people have been pushing for this (and some not so much), so let's hope for the best balanced outcome.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interesting Designs

Probably inspired by too much late night advertising.

Who can't appreciate a good cup of joe?

As a parent of three anything that makes meals
more interesting ...

And last, I'm really not looking forward to winter.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Expanding Scope of Design Patent Protection

As noted on a recent Ordinary Observer post (here – by Michael Mathaisel), Apple recently made headlines over a patent infringement loss and the near simultaneous grant of a design patent covering, arguably, the same technology.

The design patent that just issued to Apple, D624,932 was an eye opener from my perspective. I had some experience with design patents being issued on icons within a user interface. My colleague wrote an article on this very topic (here – by Thomas McGinnis) referencing for example D608,366 directed to the appearance of a display screen.

The use of design patents for static computer icons appears to lead directly to the applicability of design patents to animated icons. (See M.P.E.P. §1504.01(a) Computer-Generated Icons, Sec. IV). The ability to protect the display of animated icons on a computer display screen suggests that any display or animation within a computer screen is also protectable. Apple appears to be an early adopter of such an approach, filing design patents at a brisk pace. (Some recently issued Apple Design Patents may be found here).

I recently filed a number of design patents on virtualizations of physical designs for display on a smart phone (in conjunction with design applications on the objects themselves). The iPhone, Android, and other smart phone devices have given rise to a plethora of virtualized objects that could be covered by design patent. An interesting article (here), touches upon the use of design patents to protect the virtualization of physical objects, for example in the electronic gaming space. The virtualization of designs in that setting amount to what the authors dub as “design theft” by incorporating known designs – a virtual Ford Mustang into Grand Theft Auto, for example. The authors touch upon filing separate design patent applications to cover both the physical object and the virtualized object as is would be displayed on a computer screen. The approach is described as a “non-traditional” method of hedging bets. The “virtual” design patent helps to deflect an argument that a design patent covering a physical object does not necessarily protect a virtualization of the same object.

Of course every situation is fact specific, but it would appear from a litigation perspective that eliminating a potential argument with the relatively inexpensive filing of a design application directed to the virtual design would have significant value. In addition, I expect there to be increasing numbers of design application filed on “changeable computer generated icons,” as smart phones adoption and adoption of similar devices increases. Further, with industry participants like Apple leading the way, I expect to see the boundaries defined by the “changeable computer icon” to be expanded into the virtualization and animation of almost any display shown on any computer system.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Designs of the Week

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the ubiquitous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was never copyrighted by its creator, Betty Willis, and has been reproduced on everything from keychains to Nevada license plates to...slot machines (or whatever this is supposed to be)!

Hay, hay, get out of the way!

Time to make a connection.

I'm thinking this would be perfect for camping.

Who stole my cupcake!

Strange, but still cool.

Fun for all ages.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mirror Worlds, LLC v. Apple, Inc. and Apple’s New Cover Flow Design Patent

What happens when a utility patent holder wins an infringement suit against a defendant who has been awarded a design patent covering the same technology? This interesting scenario has recently arisen in the case of Mirror Worlds v. Apple.
In March 2008, Apple was hit with the patent infringement suit by Mirror Worlds alleging that Apple’s Cover Flow, Time Machine and Spotlight technologies infringed several utility patents held by Mirror Worlds. The patents in suit are directed to a document stream operating system and document organizing and display facility. The earliest filing date in the patent family is June 28, 1996. According to the patents, documents are stored by an operating system in a chronological sequence with respect to other documents, based on the time that the document was presented to the operating system. The patents also disclose representing the document stream as a receding stack of overlapping document icons. A representative figure from the patents is shown below:

This brings to mind Apple’s old HyperCard application, originally released in 1987, which this author used extensively in the early 1990’s on his trusty Mac IIsi to develop lighting and video control applications for a nightclub at Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island as well as a media event database for WDW’s 20th anniversary in 1991. HyperCard followed a Rolodex card model for designing applications on the Mac, with each card within a “virtual stack” of cards containing a set of data and some functional code. Apparently, Apple also saw the similarities, and brought these up during trial.

Nevertheless, on October 1 a federal jury in the Eastern District of Texas awarded Mirror Worlds damages of $208.5 million (per patent) for infringing three of Mirror Worlds’ patents.
Entirely by coincidence, on October 5, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted to Apple design patent D624,932 for an “Animated graphical user interface for a display screen or portion thereof.” Many readers familiar with iTunes and iOS devices (iPhone, iPod Touch) will recognize this as Apple’s Cover Flow feature, where icons representing music albums or other recordings rotate and scroll across the screen as the user browses through them.

Apple is appealing the jury verdict. It remains to be seen what, if any, practical effect this new design patent will have on the outcome of this interesting case, and the implications to Apple’s patent rights in the face of this verdict, if it stands.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Trademark Justification for Design Patent Rights

Dennis Crouch, a professor at the University of Missouri Law School and the founder of the leading patent blog, has posted a draft article discussing design patents. Mr. Crouch identifies recent trends involving various types of IP protection, and discusses what those trends mean for the scope of various forms of IP protection. I highly recommend reading the article (available here), particularly if you’re interested in the interplay between trade dress protection and design patents.

Mr. Crouch points out the important “gap-filling” role that design patents can play in conjunction with trade dress protection. As the Supreme Court made clear in Wal-Mart Stores v. Samara Bros. Inc., 529 U.S. 205 (2000), product configuration trade dress can never be inherently distinctive. Thus, someone trying to protect an ornamental design of a product as trade dress must demonstrate acquired distinctiveness—namely, that consumers identify the ornamental design as coming from a single source. This is obviously impossible when the product is not yet publicly known or available. In fact, it may take several years to gather proof of acquired distinctiveness, such as consumer surveys or advertising expenditures. Meanwhile, competitors can copy the nascent trade dress with impunity, which may prevent the trade dress from ever acquiring distinctiveness.

Because a design patent can be pursued on a product configuration before the product is even released (and usually issues more quickly than trade dress protection even where the latter is available), it can play a valuable role in the early days of the life of a design. What’s more, the design patent allows room for the design room to acquire distinctiveness by inhibiting others from copying the design.

Mr. Crouch argues that, from a transactional point of view, design patents may be more convenient than trade dress protection as well. Where protectable trade dress is the subject of a license or assignment, the parties must avoid “naked licensing”—a situation where a trademark (or trade dress) is transferred without its accompanying good will. A naked license can arise from subtle drafting issues with the transfer, and can be fatal to trademark or trade dress rights. The bottom line is that licensing or assigning trade dress rights can be a tricky affair fraught with traps. Design patent rights, on the other hand, can be easily and efficiently transferred.

Mr. Crouch’s research yields statistics that may surprise those used to the rigorous examination that utility patents undergo. For example, design patents enjoy an allowance rate of over 90% (compared with 44% for utility patents). In Mr. Crouch’s view, though issued patents are entitled to a presumption of validity, “the U.S. design patent examination system is operating as a de facto registration system rather than as one based on a true examination.” In this, he sees an opportunity for owners of ornamental designs: design patents may provide evidence of non-functionality. Under the Traffix doctrine, the existence of a utility patent covering a particular design creates a presumption that the patented design is functional. Under Mr. Crouch’s “anti-Traffix” doctrine, a prior design patent covering a design provides evidence (albeit non-conclusive) that the design is not functional.

In one sense, Mr. Crouch's statements seem at odds with one another. On the one hand, he argues that design patents are registered without rigorous examination, similar to copyrights. Presumably, that means design patent applications are not being thoroughly examined for functionality. On the other hand, the anti-Traffix doctrine allows design patents to serve as evidence of non-functionality. But why would courts assume the non-functionality of a design that was never truly examined for functionality?

Mr. Crouch argues that, even though the scope of design patents has not expanded at the pace of trademarks, trade dress, or copyright law, design patents still play an important role in limiting the expansion of trade dress rights. The functionality standard for trade dress protection is stricter than that for design patents. Accordingly, the relative ease of obtaining design patent protection may offer justification for courts limiting the expansion of trade dress protection, since design patent protection would still be available. This would have the long-term effect of reducing monopoly power, since a design patent expires in 14 years whereas a trade dress registration may exist in perpetuity. Thus, by shifting the type of protection we give to product designs, it may be possible to mute the anti-competitive effect of the protection.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Protecting Typeface - A Design Patent Monopoly?

As discussed in previous posts within The Ordinary Observer, software is rich with intellectual property rights. Although not often discussed, fonts[1] are one aspect of software that reveals an interesting interplay between branches of U.S. intellectual property law.

Given that U.S. copyright law protects “original works of authorship” including “pictorial” and “graphic” works, one might assume that U.S. copyright law could be used to protect typefaces. Indeed, in some countries, (perhaps most notably the U.K.) typefaces are protected by copyright law. However, the U.S. Copyright Office refuses to register copyrights in typefaces. The Office argues that under U.S. copyright law fonts per se are not subject to copyright and, according to the rules promulgated by the Office, “typeface as typeface” is not protectable. 37 CFR 202.1(e).

Courts appear to agree. For example, Eltra Corporation v. A Ringer held that typefaces, as such, are not protectable under U.S. copyright law. The court stated the following while flatly dismissing the argument that U.S. copyright law should protect a particular typeface, “Under Regulation 202.10(c) it is patent that typeface is an industrial design in which the design cannot exist independently and separately as a work of art. Because of this, typeface has never been considered entitled to copyright under the provisions of § 5(g).”

Yet within the realm of computer technology, the data that implements a typeface, i.e., a font, is (like most other software) subject to copyright. For example, Adobe vs. Southern Software, Inc. held that scalable fonts (such as TrueType font implementations are software and therefore subject to copyright protection under U.S. law). It is this protection of fonts that developers of open source fonts, such as the Liberation fonts, use to give legal basis to their licenses.

Nevertheless, protecting typefaces via the software that implements them is an incomplete solution. Design patents can be used to fill this gap. MPEP 1504.01(a) III. Design patents protect the actual typeface of the font itself, regardless of how the shapes that make up the typeface are rendered. For an example, D570903 is directed toward a numeric font. Thus, under U.S. law, design patents provide an important means for protecting a typeface that is the essence of a font.

[1] Font data is used by a computer system to render characters that subscribe to a particular typeface. A typeface, in contrast, is a specification of the shapes and markings that make up a particular group of characters. Thus, a typeface is a design specification that exists outside of, and extends beyond, any particular implementation of the typeface, e.g. a font.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Filing Design Patent Applications in China and Taiwan

When filing design patent applications in China and Taiwan, the practitioner should be aware of unique filing requirements and potential pitfalls she may encounter when filing such applications, especially concerning the drawings. I just finished prosecuting several applications for various clients in China and Taiwan, and I thought this may be a good opportunity to review drawing filing requirements in these countries of growing importance.

In the United States, the rules are somewhat less strict with respect to multiple embodiments, shading and hidden features. When prosecuting a U.S. application, I have taken the approach of including all embodiments within a single application, with the hope that the USPTO will examine all embodiments. As far as representing the claimed design, I like to show all features, with solid lines illustrating “must have” components of the design and dashed lines illustrating non-essential components. Anyone who prepares and prosecutes a fair number of designs patent applications knows that it is not easy to decide what design elements are important (represented by solid lines) and unimportant (represented by broken lines or even deleted). With shading, I usually leave it to my draftsman, who does a nice job representing the surfaces of the claimed design.

In China, the practitioner needs to be aware that the Chinese Patent Office will require drawings without shading and broken lines. The elimination of shading and broken lines may impact decisions made during the U.S. filing. For example, rather than representing non-essential components with broken lines, perhaps it is a better practice to eliminate non-essential components totally. However, I am reluctant to adopt this approach since the claimed design may not be accurately represented. Regarding multiple embodiments, China adopts the same practice as the U.S. – the practitioner may file one or more divisional applications. I find consultation with my respective counterparts in each country to be the best tool for determining when the divisional application must be filed.

In Taiwan, while allowing shading and broken lines, the Taiwanese Patent Office requires that all embodiments must be represented in separate applications. Thus, when claiming priority to a U.S. application, for example, the practitioner needs to be aware that a multiple embodiment application needs to be broken into separate applications prior to filing. This may prove difficult when waiting until the last minute to file.

Prior planning can make it significantly easier for the practitioner when filing design patent applications in China and Taiwan. What has your experience been?

Friday, July 9, 2010

First RCD Decision Issued by the European General Court

In overturning a lower court decision, the ECG (European General Court) provides useful guidance on the interpretation of definitions and concepts in European Community Design Law. In particular, the ECG weighed in for the first time on whether a particular Registered Community Design (“RCD”) is in conflict with another previously registered design. Some basic information on Registered Community Design can be found here.

PepsiCo, Inc. owns the RCD shown below (left):

PepsiCo’s design was filed on September 9, 2003, and claims priority to a Spanish registration filed on July 23, 2003. The design was classified as a “Promotional Item for Games.” The owner of an earlier filed (July 17, 2003 with a Spanish priority claim of July 8, 2003), but later published design, Grupo Promer Mon Graphis SA (‘Grupo’) (above -right), requested that PepsiCo’s registration be cancelled. Grupo argued that PepsiCo’s registration was done in bad faith, as Grupo had disclosed their designs to PepsiCo in confidence and that the two designs were “in conflict.”

The ECG reviewed the first determination by the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) that the PepsiCo’s registration was “in conflict” with Grupo’s earlier RCD, and its subsequent reversal by the OHIM Board of Appeal. The Board had rejected Grupo’s bad faith argument and reversed the OHIM determination that the designs were in conflict.

The ECG agreed with the Board on the determination of bad faith. The ECG found that bad faith was not a valid ground for determining invalidity based on the Regulation governing RCDs. (The Regulations can be found here). However, the ECG disagreed with the Board’s ultimate decision that the two designs were not in conflict. As the Board set forth, and the ECG agreed, a design is in conflict if it produces the same overall impression on an informed user, taking into account the freedom of the designer in producing the design. The approach seems quite similar to the “Ordinary Observer” test used in the U.S.

The ECG opined on the degree of freedom of the designer, which deemphasizes common features of a design where the degree of freedom of the designer is limited, almost akin to the US approach of ignoring functional features of a design. Although recognizing that in the narrow category of “pogs,” “rappers,” or “tazos” the degree of design freedom is severely limited, the ECG still determined that the difference between PepsiCo’s and Grupo’s designs were not sufficient to produce a different overall impression.

Rather than the current approach of filtering out functional elements, perhaps the U.S. approach could benefit from consideration of “degree of freedom” when applying the Ordinary Observer test. It seems the approach of deemphasizing common elements rather than outright exclusion of elements could alleviate some of the criticism of the recent Stanley decision (analyzed here).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Design Patent Relationships with Other Forms of IP Protection

Design patents protect the new and original ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Although the protection offered by a design patent is somewhat limited, recent decisions such as Crocs, Inc. v. International Trade Comm’n. and Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc. have bolstered the ability of patent owners to prevent others from making, using, or selling products that closely resemble the patented design. This form of protection can be especially valuable for products that have achieved commercial success and widespread consumer recognition, and are thus more susceptible to imitation. A design patent can represent one facet of a multi-faceted approach to guarding your IP. Therefore, it is worth considering the interplay between design patents and other types of protection.


One area of overlap exists between design patents and copyrights. The ornamental design of a product may also be a copyrightable work of art, and such a copyright can coexist with a design patent. Furthermore, section 1301 of the copyright statute explicitly states that “the designer or other owner of an original design of a useful article which makes the article attractive or distinctive in appearance to the purchasing or using public may secure the protection provided by [the copyright statute].” While that sounds intriguing, Congress has thus far limited the scope of “useful articles” to designs of vessel hulls and decks, though there have been efforts to expand copyright to other types of articles, such as fashion designs for clothing, handbags, belts and eyeglasses. A discussion of what constitutes an “original design” is beyond the scope of this article, but it is generally defined as any distinguishable, non-trivial variation over a prior work of art. Furthermore, neither copyright nor design patent protection extends to designs that are dictated solely by a utilitarian function. Also excluded from section 1301 are illustrations that are not embodied in an article, such as drawings, photographs, brochures, etc. Copyright for a design of a useful article begins upon registration with the U.S. Copyright Office and expires after about ten years, whereas a design patent becomes effective after examination and issuance, and is valid for a term of 14 years from grant.

Several important distinctions occur with respect to infringement of copyright. It is an infringing act to make, use or sell an article embodying a copyrighted design; however, infringement only occurs when the infringer had knowledge that the design was copyrighted. This mirrors other aspects of copyright law, where “copying” is the key to proving infringement. The mere coincidence that two articles share the same design is not enough. In this regard, design patents offer a more powerful form of protection because, once the patent issues, the world is placed on notice that the design is patented, and the lack of knowledge of an infringer is not a defense to infringement. Another notable distinction is that the Copyright Office does not assess the originality of a design before issuing a Copyright registration. Therefore, a copyright owner has the burden of establishing the originality of a design during litigation. Nonetheless, an applicant for a design patent need not choose between having either the patent or a copyright, because both can work in harmony to protect the same design. Additionally, the USPTO will allow the inclusion of a statutory copyright notice within the design patent.


Design patents may also overlap with trademarks, which can be used to associate a design with a unique source and also to exclude imitators and free-riders. In fact, a design patent and a trademark can exist for the same article. Design patents and trademarks coexist peacefully because the rights acquired from each are neither dependent nor conditioned upon the other. Trademarks for designs which are in continuous use may be valid indefinitely. As with copyright, the USPTO allows trademark notices to appear in a design patent as long as the trademark is in legal use under federal trademark law.

Utility Patents

Not to be discounted is the relationship between design patents and utility patents. While each type of patent serves a different purpose, some inventions may qualify for both types. However, care must be taken to avoid a situation where one patent anticipates the other (i.e., the design is no longer novel in light of its disclosure in an earlier patent). For example, if a utility patent or patent application includes drawings showing potentially patentable ornamental designs of the invention, those drawings could become prior art that would lead to a rejection of a design patent application claiming the same design. This is an important consideration for applicants who may initially be focused on a traditional utility application, and then later (perhaps after achieving some success with the product) decide that the invention’s design is also quite valuable. While copyright and trademark may still provide avenues to pursue copycats, the relative inexpense of acquiring a design patent and the concomitant benefits (e.g., injunctions and damages) may counsel toward filing both utility and design patents for the same invention in situations where the ornamental design of the invention is unique.

One method of preserving rights across multiple patents is to utilize the statutory right to claim the benefit of an earlier filing date of another patent application. Design patents may claim priority to utility patents, and vice versa. However, a design patent may not claim priority to a provisional utility patent application (and there is no such thing as a provisional design patent application). As with utility patents, the design patent application must be filed during the pendency of any U.S. utility application to which it claims priority.


The USPTO processes more than 25,000 design patent applications per year, but this number is a drop in the bucket compared to utility patent and trademark applications, as well as an unknown but presumably huge number of copyrighted designs that are constantly being created. This suggests that many are not taking advantage of the opportunity to diversify their IP protection by considering design patents.

A food storage container having both a utility patent (top) and a design patent (bottom).

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

X6D Seeing Red Over Alleged Design Infringement of 3-D Glasses

X6D Ltd. v. Li-Tek Corp.
Civil Action No. 2:10-cv-02327 (C.D. Calif., filed Mar. 30, 2010)

In March of this year, X6D Limited filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, infringement of its patent on the design of 3-D glasses. The design patent at issue is U.S. Patent No. D603,445 (“the ‘445 patent”), which issued on November 3, 2009. In particular, X6D has alleged that certain 3D glasses sold by Li-Tek Corporation and GDC Technology infringe the `445 patent.

Under Egyptian Goddess, a court tasked with determining whether a design patent has been infringed must apply the Ordinary Observer test, which simply asks whether an ordinary observer (that is, a layperson who is familiar with the prior art) would be deceived into thinking that the infringing product is the same as the patented design.

This case is still in the very early stages, and in fact an answer has not yet been filed by the defendants. However, I thought it would be a useful exercise to take a first look at the patent, the prior art, and the accused products to see how a court applying the Ordinary Observer test might decide the issue of infringement.

The prior art
An ordinary observer would be familiar with the following art, taken from utility and design patents listed on the face of the `445 patent. These designs include both 3-D glasses and sunglasses:

Though this is clearly not an exhaustive survey of the field, you get the sense that 3-D glasses started out resembling scuba masks, and are evolving to look more like sunglasses.

The `445 patent
The following figures are from the `445 patent:

Looking at these figures, a few design features jump out at me:

The arms: Viewed from the side, the arms are almost totally horizontal (i.e., they do not wrap down around the wearer’s ear). They also have 3 or 4 vertical notches about halfway down the arm. Viewed from above, each arm curves inwardly twice, creating a rough “3” shape for the right arm (as seen above). The portion that goes next to the wearer’s temples appears thick and bulky.

The face/lens portion: The front of the glasses are flat, in that they do not wrap around the wearer’s head. The part of the frame that retains the lenses appears thick and bulky, and also appears to be unitary with the “temple portion” of the arms described above. Viewed from the side, the front of the frames and lenses form an unbroken, nearly vertical line.

However, the Supreme Court warned in Egyptian Goddess that a “points of novelty” checklist is not the way to determine infringement. Therefore, it would be improper to review one-by-one those items listed above to determine what aspects of the design are novel and deserving of protection. Rather, the recent Crocs v. ITC decision (Ordinarily Observed here) shows the approach courts are most likely to follow for design patent infringement. Under that approach, we must perform a side-by-side comparison of the patented design and the alleged infringing design—all in view of the prior art—to see if the accused products embody the overall effect of the `445 patent.

To do the comparison, we must determine the “overall effect” of the `445 patent, perhaps by generalizing the visual effects of the elements listed above. When viewed from the side, the design is made up of clean, straight lines: the straight horizontal arms, which widen and terminate abruptly at the flat front of the glasses. When viewed from above, the inwardly-swooping arms draw attention away from the flat front of the glasses.

To summarize, the lines of the design curve very little through the vertical plane, whereas they swoop inwardly through the horizontal plane.

The allegedly infringing product
Now we consider the allegedly infringing glasses, some of which I found on a defendant’s website:

There are some obvious differences. The first two accused designs shown appear to have a wrapping, non-flat front. Furthermore, in those designs the arms swoop downwardly.

In the third accused design, the arms are generally horizontal, like the arms in the `445 patent. However, other aspects of the third accused design are markedly different, for example, the downward curve above the bridge of the nose, and the rounded sides of the temple piece.

But there are also some similarities. The lenses of the first two accused designs appear to be the same shape as the lenses of the `445 patent. The wide portion of the arm near the temple is wide and bulky, as in the `445 patent. However, this may be a functional aspect of the design, in that the enlarged structure may be necessary to house electrical components.

Functional elements of a design are the sole province of utility patents, not design patents, and therefore receive no protection under the latter. Thus, the general concept of a “bulky arm” in the `445 patent would probably be entitled to little or no protection if it were bulky for functional reasons.

One similarity that jumps out is the notches visible in the arm pieces of the first two accused designs. They appear identical to ones in the `445 patent! Since the notches appear to be for aesthetic purposes only, this could weigh in favor of a finding of infringement. Though the court must look at the “overall effect” of the design, a slavish copy of a purely aesthetic design detail will not go unnoticed.

Though this is far from a clear-cut case, I’d say the third accused design is probably not infringing. Other than the straight arms, which are hardly novel in the field of glasses generally, there are substantial differences.

It’s a closer call on the first two accused designs. They may depart somewhat from the overall effect of the `445 patent. However, the shape of the lenses, the bulky front/face portion, and the vertical notches may be enough to tip the scales in favor of infringement. That said, I did not examine all the prior art, did not look at all of the accused devices, and have no information on the functionality of various aspects of the designs.

And of course, the parties may argue for, and the court may adopt, a description of the “overall effect” that is wildly different than the one I came up with. I guess what I’m saying is: infringement is in the eye of the beholder, making the streamlined Ordinary Observer test as difficult to predict as its predecessor.