Federal Circuit Urges Caution in Construing Design Patents
In a decision issued February 24, 2010 (Case No. 2008-1596), a panel of the Federal Circuit reversed a finding by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that a design patent owned by Crocs, Inc. was not infringed by various respondents. In explaining its reasoning, the Court warned against reliance on detailed verbal descriptions of the claimed design, stating:
"This court has cautioned, and continues to caution, trial courts about excessive reliance on a detailed verbal description in a design infringement case. See, e.g., Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc., 543 F.3d 665, 679 (Fed. Cir. 2008) (en banc). In Egyptian Goddess, this court warned that misplaced reliance on a detailed verbal description of the claimed design risks undue emphasis on particular features of the design rather than examination of the design as a whole. Id. at 679–80. In many cases, the considerable effort in fashioning a detailed verbal description does not contribute enough to the infringement analysis to justify the endeavor. See id. at 680. Depictions of the claimed design in words can easily distract from the proper infringement analysis of the ornamental patterns and drawings." Slip Op. at 9-10.
The text of the full decision may be found here.
Andrew Ollis, member of the Industrial Design Practice Group