Monday, February 14, 2011

Amazon Sued For Design Patent Infringement

Back in December, Mint, Inc. sued Shokomoko and for infringing its copyright, design patent, and trade dress rights. Mint is the owner of U.S. Design Patent No. D464,532, on a "spice shaker":

Shokomoko sells hugging salt and pepper shakers through the Marketplace:

(You can see one of Shokomoko’s listings here.)

At first glance, Shokomoko appears to have a problem. Putting aside the substantive for a moment, though, there are some interesting procedural issues that bear mentioning as well.

For example, Mint filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Yet it failed to allege that Shokomoko had sold any infringing products in the district. Therefore, the Court (apparently sua sponte) ordered the parties to “submit a (compelling) letter to the Court [. . .] setting forth the reasons why venue is proper in the Southern District of New York.” When no compelling reasons were offered, the case was transferred to the Southern District of Washington, where Amazon is headquartered. (Shokomoko is based in Israel.)

Had Mint been able to allege that a "substantial part" of its sales were in the Southern District of New York, venue would have been proper. (Considering that Manhattan is served by the Southern District of New York, that shouldn’t have been hard to do.)

At any rate, my guess is that this case will settle before it goes much further, given the striking similarity between Shokomo’s product and Mint’s patented design.