Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Design Patent Links - Jan.21, 2014

BlackBerry's design patent D685,775 covers the look of its keyboard, including the sculpted keys.Starting off this week's links with some good news in the patent world, a recent report shows that in 2012, worldwide patent applications saw their strongest growth in 18 years, with design patents ticking up by 17%, year over year.  This follows double-digit growth in design patent filings each year since 2010.  Of course, these numbers still lag behind the growth in utility patent filings over the same period.  Part of the recent surge is attributable to the increased participation of younger nations in the global marketplace; in 2012 for instance, Chinese residents led the world in new utility patent application filings for the first time.  Several questions remain.  How long can the market sustain double digit growth in new patent applications and what will governments, particularly the U.S. government, choose to do about it?  

Continuing on the international front, following the 24th U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade in December, China has further indicated that it will extend design patent protection to Graphical User Interfaces.  Readers of the Ordinary Observer may note that in we have reported on this subject before.  In October, the Chinese State Intellectual Property Office released a draft amended version of its Examination Guidelines, indicating for the first time that it was amenable to extending patent protection to GUIs and other so-called virtual designs. This is a significant step towards harmonizing U.S.-Chinese design patent law, as the United States has offered patent protection to so-called virtual designs for roughly twenty years.

In more consumer-driven news, several major technology companies are lighting up the technology blogs with design patent revelations.  First, Samsung and the U.S. PTO have joined forces to tease gadget journalists with newly issued design patents covering a foldable tablet, as well a new design rumored to be the next Galaxy series flagship phone.  On the enforcement side, struggling smartphone maker Blackberry has filed suit against Typo Products, LLC, the maker of a Bluetooth keyboard for smartphones which tends to evoke comparisons to Blackberry's iconic keyboard style.  The reactions from users and bloggers towards Blackberry's suit appear mixed, at best.   The lesson here appears to be that you can get press from both design patent suits and design patent grants, but the press for the former is very different than from the latter.

Finally, the Federal Circuit's recent decision in Pacific Coast Marine Windshields Limited v. Malibu Boats has succeeded in generating a fair amount of scholarship in its immediate aftermath.  See the following links for analysis of the decision, as well as The Ordinary Observer's own breakdown of the case

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