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October 7, 2014
by Axel
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Computer rendered drawings in design patents

It used to be that computer renderings were an exception among design patents. But they appear to become more common. In the automotive world Toyota has been filing their designs as computer renderings for a while. This week patents assigned to Volkswagen, Kia, BMW and Great Wall Motor Company published, all of them in form of computer renderings.

 

August 10, 2014
by Axel
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Why get a design patent on this …?

Yet another interesting design patent that published earlier this week. Seems like a cool idea. But I wondered: Why would anyone try to obtain a design patent on an assembly, if all the ingredients are well known (cloth pin, tee and golf ball) and the “assembly” would always be completed by the end user? Seems the idea here is that the inventor operates a website “Sonicdad.com”, which charges users to download plans. So the underlying idea might be to prevent others from providing similar plans?  See the design in action here: http://youtu.be/HkNFhyNL_ss

This case is interesting also for the hard fought battle to get the design patent to issue: If anyone is interested in a complex prosecution history of a design patent, including rule 132 affidavits and multiple rounds of rejections application 29/443,221 for this Spinning Golf Ball Toy Assembly is worth reading. And to add more complexity: The design application claims priority back to provisional application 61/534,649 which was filed in September 2011.

August 10, 2014
by Axel
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Utility vs Design Patents

A novel product may well be covered by both a utility patent and a design patent. The design patent will only protect the novel, ornamental features of the patented design, not its function. In case of US Design Patent D710181 it seems odd though. The hinge body itself seems pretty standard. One may assume that it was designed to match that of numerous other hinges, as to fit the same cutout template in the door and wall.

That leaves the step in one of the hinge elements, which obviously serves the function of limiting the maximum range in which the hinge can be opened to about 90 degrees. That step, however, is functional. And there appears very little the designer could do about the functional aspect of the step that was subject to ornamental variation: Changing the angle of the step would interfere with it’s function. The height of the step is likely also selected primarily based on functional considerations. But anyway: The application made its way through the USPTO only with a typical examiner’s concern related to the drawings, not the design itself.

 

 

April 24, 2014
by Axel
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Apple’s Design Patent Prosecution Practice

One may assume that Apple and their outside council know a thing or two about design patents. Recently I looked through the file wrapper of their Lightning Connector design application 29/426,587.

D684539

Apple Lightnig Connector

Here are some observations:

  1. The Design Application was filed on July 6th, 2012. The connector was introduced to the public on September 12th, 2012.
  2. Apple filed a Rocket Docket request – but not until January 2013, after the connector had been publicly released.
  3. The initial application contains a total of 144 figures, covering pretty much every possible permutations of claiming /not claiming design elements of the connector. The application was reduced to just one embodiment by preliminary amendment at the time of the rocket docket request.
  4. The initial application was filed with a lengthy appendix which includes the figures and various photographs. It seems the application is trying to over-disclose in order to prevent possible future new matter rejection.
  5. Up until now 9  continuation applications have been filed. Not all have published, but it seems save to assume that those cover permutations of the design that were removed from the lead application, likely in anticipation of a restriction requirement.

 

The practices used in this application might be generalized to the following best practices:

  • File a design application before public release of your product, and follow-up with a rocket docket request just after publication.
  • Have one lead-application which shows a complete design, and various permutations of design elements converted from solid lines to dotted lines.
  • Use an “appendix” to submit photos or any other documentation that may be useful to counter “new matter” rejections if any changes need to be made to the drawings.

 

March 30, 2014
by Axel
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Samsung Windows Phone

Display screen portion with iconReading rumors about a Samsung Windows phone (e.g. here): Well, given the design patent D701533 that published March 25th this seems to be valid… judging by the typical Windows layout of a phone screen.

March 19, 2014
by Axel
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Design Patents with Allowance Guarantee

Yuppo-LogoThis week I’d like to talk about a new product that my firm Smartpat is introducing.

It is called Yuppo. And it will revolutionize the traditional design patent prosecution model. In a nutshell, it combines two promises:

  1. An all-inclusive flat rate that covers all legal fees from filing to issue and
  2. an allowance guarantee.

Having worked primarily with smaller companies and individuals for several years I know how much they dislike an invoice over $50 or $100 just for forwarding an Office Action. Having an all-inclusive flat rate gets rid of all those nuisance bills. Instead, a single fee takes care of filing, formalities, reporting, asking questions, and even material responses to Office Actions, where needed. Also, there are no extra fees after allowance or for forwarding the patent certificate.

But while the flat fee seemed to address many of our client’s concerns, there was one aspect that kept bugging me:  That it would inherently create an incentive to dispose of a case quickly, rather than doing everything to getting it allowed. So we came up with another idea, unheard of in traditional patent prosecution: An Allowance Guarantee.  If we can’t get the design allowed, even though the inventor provides support and amended drawings, if needed, we promise to refund our legal fees. Now the incentive is clear: We really want the application allowed, because we want to keep our fee.

Feel free to check the concept out at http://www.yuppo.com