Archive for the 'Industrial Design' Category

IP Protection in the Fashion and Apparel Industry (Part 2)

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By Richard Stobbe

As noted in Part 1, IP rights in the fashion and apparel industry are fiercely contested. Fashion products can be protected in Canada using a number of different IP tools, including:

  • confidential information
  • patents
  • industrial design or “design patent”
  • trademarks
  • trade dress
  • copyright
  • personality rights.

For many products, there will be an overlap in protection, and we’ll discuss some examples. In Part 2, let’s review the next couple of areas:

  • Industrial Design or “Design Patent”:

I always tell my clients not to underestimate this lesser-known area of IP protection. It can be a very powerful tool in the IP toolbox.  In both Canada (which uses the term industrial design) and the US (which refers to a design patent), this category of intellectual property only provides protection for ornamental aspects of the design of a product as long as they are not purely functional . To put this another way, features that are dictated solely by a utilitarian function of the article are ineligible for protection.

Registration is required and protection expires after 10 years.  A registrable industrial design has to meet certain criteria: (i) it must differ substantially from the prior art (in other words it must be “original”); (ii) it cannot closely resemble any other registered industrial designs; and (iii) it cannot have been published more than a year before application for registration. Some examples: luluImageThis depicts a recent registration by Lululemon. The design comprises the pattern feature of a shirt as depicted in solid lines in the drawings. (The portions shown in stippled lines do not form part of the design.)

NikeImage

The solid lines on the image above represents a protected design registration filed by Nike.

TIP: Placement of a pocket on a t-shirt may not be considered innovative, but even minor differentiators can help distinguish a product in a crowded field. A design registration can support a blended strategy which also deploys other IP protection, such as trademark rights.

  • Trademarks:

Every consumer will be intuitively familiar with the power of a brand name such as LULULEMON or NIKE, or the well-known Nike Swoosh Design.  That topic is well-covered elsewhere. However, some brands take advantage of a lesser-known area of trademark rights: distinguishing guise protects the shape of the product or its packaging. It differs from industrial design, and one way to consider the distinction is that an industrial design protects new ornamental features of a product from when it is first used, whereas a distinguishing guise can be registered once it has been used in Canada so long that becomes a brand, distinctive of a manufacturer due to extensive use of the mark in the marketplace. It’s worth noting that the in-coming amendments to the Trademarks Act will do away with distinguishing guises.

One good example is the well-known shape of CROCS-brand sandals. The shape and appearance of the footwear itself has been used so long that it now functions as a brand to distinguish CROCS from other sandals. Just as with industrial design, the protected features cannot be dictated primarily by a utilitarian function.

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Others have filed distinguishing guise registrations in Canada, including Canada Goose Inc. for coats and Hermès International for handbags.

TIP: For a distinguishing guise application, each applicant will have to file evidence to show that the mark is distinctive in the marketplace in Canada. That is not the case with a regular trademark, such a word mark or regular logo design.

We review the final areas of IP protection in Part 3.

Calgary – 7:00 MST

 

 

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IP Protection in the Fashion and Apparel Industry (Part 1)

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By Richard Stobbe

Complex technology like blockchain is in fashion. What about IP protection for seemingly simple items like shirts, shoes and undergarments? As competitors jostle for position in the fashion and apparel marketplace, how do intellectual property rights apply?  Make no mistake, IP rights in the fashion and apparel industry are fiercely contested. Fashion products can be protected in Canada using a number of different IP tools, including:

  • confidential information
  • patents
  • industrial design or “design patent”
  • trademarks
  • trade dress
  • copyright
  • personality rights.

For many products, there will be an overlap in protection, and we’ll discuss some examples. In Part 1, let’s review the first two areas:

  • Confidential Information

Confidential information or ‘trade secrets’ refers simply to information that has value to a designer or manufacturer because competitors don’t have access to the information. As long as the information is kept secret, and is only disclosed to others in confidence, then the secrets may remain protected as ‘trade secrets’ for many years. The confidential information may be made up of related business information, such as contacts of suppliers, pricing margins, new product ideas or prototype designs. The period of confidentiality may be short-lived in the case of a new product design: once the product is released to customers, it’s no longer confidential.

An owner of confidential information must take steps to maintain confidentiality, and the information should only be disclosed under strict terms of confidentiality (as part of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), or confidentiality agreement).

If the confidential information is misappropriated, the owner can seek to enforce its rights by proving that the information has the required quality of confidentiality, the information was disclosed in confidence, and there was an unauthorized use or disclosure in a way that caused harm to the owner.

TIP: Ensure that you take practical steps to limit access to the confidential info. And when signing an NDA, make sure it doesn’t contain any terms that might inadvertently compromise confidentiality or give away IP rights.

 

  • Patents

Many apparel and footwear companies rely heavily on patent protection to block competitors and gain an advantage in the marketplace.WOUS2017035602@@@false@@@en

Let’s take a few examples. In pursuing the ‘holy grail’ of outdoor activewear, many manufacturers are seeking a comfortable, breathable jacket that can keep a wearer warm without overheating.  The North Face System recently filed an application for a smart-sensing jacket using sensors to determine a “comfort signature” based on differences in environmental conditions between the sensors and making adjustments for the wearer.

A competitor – Under Armour Inc. – is seeking patent protection for garments incorporating printed ceramic materials to retain heat, without sacrificing other performance qualities such as  water and dirt repellency, durability, breathability and moisture-wicking qualities. In this patent application, Under Armour is seeking protection not only for the fabric but also the innovative method of manufacturing the fabric.

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From high-tech jackets to innovative shoe designs, to more specific components, such as garment linings, or improved fasteners, patents can provide a valuable tool to ensure that a company’s research-and-development initiatives can bear fruit in the marketplace.  By providing a period of exclusivity for the patent holder, this category of IP protection keeps the field clear of infringing replicas while the company recoups its investments and turns a profit on a successful product technology.

In the case of many fashion or apparel products, the time and cost of patent protection – it may take several years before a valid patent is issued – may not be justified in light of the high turn-over in seasonal product lines, and the ever-shifting tastes of consumers.

TIP: Make sure you consider both sides of the patent issue: as an inventor, an investment in patent protection may be worth considering, particularly in a product area where the underlying ‘technology’ or innovation may be commercialized over a number of years, such as the famous Gore-Tex fabric, even though superficial fashions may change during that time. On the flip side, manufacturers should take care to ensure that their own designs are not infringing the patent rights of some other patent holder.

 

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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“Wow Moments” and Industrial Design Infringement

By Richard Stobbe

An inventor had a “wow” moment when he came across a design improvement for cold-weather visors – something suitable for the snowmobile helmet market. The helmet maker brought the improved helmet to market and also pursued both patent and industrial design protection. The patent application was ultimately abandoned, but the industrial design registration was issued in 2010 for the “Helmet Face Shield” design, which purports to protect the visor portion of a snowmobile helmet.

AFX Licensing, the owner of the invention, sued a competitor for infringement of the registered industrial design. AFX sought an injunction and damages for infringement under the Industrial Design Act.  The competitor – HJC America – countered with an application to expunge the registration on the basis of invalidity. HJC argued that the design was invalid due to a lack of originality and due to functionality.

Can a snowmobile visor be protected using IP rights?

A registrable industrial design has to meet certain criteria: (i) it must differ substantially from the prior art (in other words it must be “original”); (ii) it cannot closely resemble any other registered industrial designs; and (iii) it cannot have been published more than a year before application for registration.

Visor-Capture

In AFX Licensing Corporation v. HJC America, Inc., 2016 FC 435 (CanLII),  the court decided that AFX’s industrial design registration was valid but was not infringed by the HJC product because the court saw “substantial differences” between the two designs. In summarizing, the court noted the following:

“First, the protection offered by the industrial design regime is different from that of the patent regime… the patent regime protects functionality and the design regime protects the aesthetic features of any given product.” (Emphasis added)

The industrial design registration obtained by AFX does “not confer on AFX a monopoly over double-walled anti-fogging face shields in Canada. Rather, it provides a measure of protection for any shield that is substantially similar to that depicted in the ID 964 illustrations, and it cannot be said that the HJ-17L meets that threshold.”

The infringement claim and the expungement counter-claim were both dismissed.

Calgary – 07:00

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IP Infringement Claim Against Canadian Company Stays in U.S.

 

By Richard Stobbe

Where should a lawsuit be heard? Canada? The US? In other posts we discuss the idea of a “choice of law” and “forum selection” clauses in contracts. In those cases, the parties agree to a particular forum in advance.

What if there is no contractual relationship? There’s just an intellectual property infringement claim. What is the proper forum for that dispute to be heard?

In Halo Creative v. Comptoir Des Indes Inc., David Ouaknine, Case No. 15-1375 (Fed. Cir., Mar. 14, 2016), a recent decision out of the US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, this issue was reviewed.

Halo Creative, a Hong Kong based furniture maker, launched an IP infringement lawsuit against Comptoir Des Indes, Inc., a Canadian company, and its CEO, claiming infringement of Halo’s U.S. design patents, U.S. copyrights, and one U.S. common law trademark. The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Illinois. The Canadian company moved to dismiss the lawsuit based on a “forum non conveniens” argument – essentially an argument that the Federal Court of Canada would be a better place to litigate the claims. The Illinois district court agreed with the Canadians and dismissed the case. Halo appealed.  At the appeal level, the court looked at the adequacy of the Canadian court to litigate this issue.

The Federal Court of Canada was certainly an available forum but there was no evidence that Halo could seek a satisfactory remedy there, since the infringing activity took place in the U.S., and the infringed rights were all based on U.S. registrations or U.S. based trademark rights. IP rights are fundamentally territorial.  The U.S. court even quoted a Canadian textbook: “a Canadian court would not have jurisdiction to entertain in an action brought by an author of a work in respect of acts being committed outside Canada, even if the defendant was within Canada.” (Emphasis added)  Here, there was no evidence that any infringement occurred in Canada.

The motion was dismissed and the lawsuit will proceed in the U.S.

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Amendments to Canadian Intellectual Property Laws …Delayed

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By Richard Stobbe

As an update to our earlier post, we note that the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, in its most recent bulletin, is estimating that the anticipated changes to Canada’s intellectual property laws – including the overhaul of trademark laws under new Trademarks Regulations, as well as changes to the Patent Rules and Industrial Design Regulations – will not begin until late 2016. This pushes the patent law changes into late 2017, with the trademark amendments to be implemented by early 2018.

The impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Canada’s IP laws is still being assessed. If ratified in Canada, the TPP is expected to require further consequential amendments to Canadian laws – such as copyright term extensions.

Stay tuned. Just don’t hold your breath.

Calgary – 07:00 MT

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What, exactly, does industrial design protect?

By Richard Stobbe

What, exactly, does industrial design protect? The recent decision Zero Spill Systems Inc. v. Heide, 2015 FCA 115, reviewed this question. In the trial level decision, Zero Spill sued a competitor for infringement of Canadian Industrial Design No. 86,793 (the ’793 Design), based on the competitor’s sales of a similar-looking tray. The ‘793 Design protected a fluid containment tray for use in oil field operations. The Federal Court decided that there was no infringement because many features of the ’793 Design were in some way functional, and were therefore unprotectable under the Industrial Design Act by virtue of section 5.1(a) of the Act. The court of appeal reversed in part and clarified:

1. First, the Court made it clear that the right to sue for industrial design infringement depends on registration. Without a registered industrial design, there can be no basis for infringement. With a registered design, the law recognizes a presumption of validity. In other words, a presumption that the registered industrial design complies with the Act.

2. Secondly, it is worth noting that this presumption favours the owner, and places the onus on the alleged infringer to plead invalidity. If invalidity is not raised in the defence, and evidence is not raised on the issue of invalidity, then the court cannot make a determination of invalidity.

3. Third, the Court said clearly that “functional features of an industrial design may be protected by the Industrial Design Act.” Looking at section 5.1(a) of the Act, it is clear that features that are dictated solely by a utilitarian function of the article are ineligible for protection. Therefore, “features may be simultaneously useful and visually appealing.” The Court went so far as to say that Industrial Design Act would serve no purpose if it did not protect functional features. Only those features whose form are dictated solely by function are not protected.

Talk to experienced IP counsel at Field Law for advice on exploring the possible advantages of industrial design protection for your products.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Trade Dress Updates: “Beauty” does not cut it

By Richard Stobbe

A recent decision of the US Federal Court (see: Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. May 18, 2015) reviewed the jury decision in Apple’s famous infringement lawsuit against Samsung. You may recall that Apple’s 2011 lawsuit alleged that Samsung infringed Apple’s utility patent rights, design patents, and trade dress rights.

See our previous posts here Pinch and Zoom: Apple vs. Samsung and here Apple and Samsung: The Design Patent Wars Continue.

In the latest decision, the Federal Court left the design and utility patent verdicts untouched, but knocked down the finding of trade dress infringement, on the basis that trade dress cannot protect functional elements of the design.

The court observed that “Apple emphasizes a single aspect of its design, beauty, to imply the lack of other advantages. But the evidence showed that the iPhone’s design pursued more than just beauty.” In its conclusion, the court noted: “Apple has failed to show that there was substantial evidence in the record to support a jury finding in favor of non-functionality for the unregistered trade dress … Apple fails to rebut the evidence that the elements in the unregistered trade dress serve the functional purpose of improving usability. Rather, Apple focuses on the ‘beauty’ of its design, even though Apple pursued both ‘beauty’ and functionality in the design of the iPhone.” Accordingly, the court reversed the jury’s verdicts on the unregistered and registered trade dress claims.

Watch for our upcoming updates on Canadian industrial design law.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Apple Watch Design Patent

By Richard Stobbe

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As we reviewed in our previous post – Industrial Design as a Competitive Tool – the value of strategic industrial design protection (also called a “design patent” in the US) should not be underestimated.

Yesterday, the USPTO issued a registration for the Apple Watch, which provides protection for a term of 14 years in the US. US design patents which are registered based on applications filed after May 13, 2015 will have a 15-year term. That would be 10 years if registered in Canada, though this term is soon to increase to 15 years once the changes to the Canadian Industrial Design Act come into force. Remember, industrial design law in Canada protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which are applied to a product. Functional elements are not protected. For protection, registration is required. While it is likely that Apple has filed a corresponding Canadian application, such a filing would most likely be based upon the US registration.

Will this be enforced against competitors? Probably – don’t forget that industrial design infringement formed the basis of successful recent claims by Blackberry (BlackBerry sued Typo Products LLC for infringement of U.S. Design Patent No. D685,775) and by Apple (Apple sued Samsung for infringement of Apple’s D504,889 design patent).

Talk to experienced IP counsel at Field Law for advice on exploring the possible advantages of industrial design protection for your products.

Calgary – 08:00 MST

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Amendments to Canadian Intellectual Property Laws by 2017

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By Richard Stobbe

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has indicated that the amendments to the Trade-marks Regulations (and in particular the accession to international trademark treaties), the amendments to the Industrial Design Regulations and amendments to the Patent Rules will not be finalized until later 2016, and possibly as late as 2017.

A note on the CIPO website says that stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment when the proposed amendments/regulations are pre-published in Canada Gazette, Part 1 (expected late 2016). If the proposed regulations are published in late 2016, then the regulations will not be finalized until 2017 at the earliest.

 

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Enforcing Keyboard Patents (BlackBerry v. Typo)

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By Richard Stobbe

A year ago, BlackBerry sued Typo Products LLC for patent infringement, based on the design of a snap-on keyboard. Typo’s physical keyboard was designed to attach to an iPhone, in order to mimic a BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard. The design was, in BlackBerry’s view, imitation that went beyond flattery and into infringement of U.S. Design Patent No. D685,775 and U.S. Patent No. 7,629,964 (Our original post Can BlackBerry Patent a Keyboard? gives more details).

A California granted a preliminary injunction (See: Ok… so BlackBerry Can Patent a Keyboard!) which took effect in April, 2014. Typo, after the preliminary injunction took effect, flouted the injunction by selling products, providing warranty replacements, and promoting products which were subject to the court order. In a judgement yesterday, the same California judge ordered Typo to pay BlackBerry $860,600 in sanctions, plus attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in connection with Typo’s contempt of court. See: BlackBerry Limited v. Typo Products LLC, Case No. 14-cv-00023-WHO for the full court order.The broader infringement issues have yet to be decided, and the litigation continues.

The interesting part of this case is how it illustrates the competitive use of IP protection for incremental improvements – in this case, an improvement to a basic QWERTY design (a design which has been around since the 1800s). It also illustrates the value of IP analysis in the competitive response by Typo. Their designers (undoubtedly working closely with patent counsel), have designed a “Typo 2” product which is not caught by the original injunction.  

Calgary – 10:00 MST

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Industrial Design as a Competitive Tool

By Richard Stobbe

Industrial design law in Canada protects the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation which are applied to a product. Functional elements are not protected.

Think of the unique shape of a bottle. The functional elements – such as a handle, a cap or lid – those elements could not be protected by industrial design, but design elements like a curved neck, or say a ridged pattern or other ornamental features could be protected.

If the article or product has been “published” (i.e., it’s been made public or offered for sale or use) then it won’t be eligible for protection. However, if the product or article has been “published”, there is a 12 month grace period in which to obtain registration. So timing is important and protection can be lost if the product launch is not coordinated with IP rights protection.

For protection under the Industrial Designs Act, registration is required, and lasts for 10 years from the date of registration. Note that at the five year point, a maintenance fee is required. After the expiry of the 10-year term, the design is available for anyone in Canada to make, import, rent or sell.

Some points to consider for the use of industrial design law as a tool for strategic IP protection:

  • industrial designs (also known as a design patent in the US) can be a perfect fit for companies selling manufactured consumer goods and packaged goods, but can also be a competitive tool for service companies who are trying to protect a product or device that is used or sold as part of a service offering
  • industrial design can help fill in the gaps between utility patents, trademarks and copyright
  • when considering protection, focus on features that would distinguish your product from competitors, and features that competitors or knock-off infringers would want to copy in order to mimic your products
  • the scope and period of protection is much narrower than the scope of a utility patent, but it can be a very useful tool, and much more cost-effective means of obtaining protection in the right circumstances.

Talk to experienced IP counsel for advice on exploring the possible advantages of industrial design law for your organization.

Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Ok… so BlackBerry Can Patent a Keyboard!

As a follow-up to our earlier post (Can BlackBerry Patent a Keyboard?), a US court on Friday issued a preliminary injunction in a dispute between the BlackBerry maker and start-up Typo Products LLC which sells a snap-on keyboard for the iPhone.

The preliminary court order prohibits Typo from the sale of its keyboard products in the US, pending outcome of the case at trial. Typo Products has indicated it will appeal. A preliminary injunction is not determinative but certainly provides an early advantage to BlackBerry as the patent holder.

Stay tuned.

Calgary – 08:00

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Canadian Update on International IP Treaties

Earlier this week, the government introduced an unprecedented five international intellectual property treaties in the House of Commons on the same day. The five tabled treaties, introduced for ratification and implementation, are:

  • the Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks,
  • the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trademarks,
  • the Nice Agreement Concerning the International Classification of Goods and Services for the Purposes of the Registration of Marks,
  • the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs, and
  • the Patent Law Treaty.

If you follow these sorts of things – and who doesn’t? – you will know that these treaties have been the subject of debate in Canada for years. For example, here is a 2001 article reviewing the merits of the Madrid Protocol. Why does the government have a sudden interest in pushing these treaties forward now?  It’s because the government is in the process of negotiating a Canada-EU free trade deal  as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. According to reports, implementation of these legal reforms is a condition for Canada to finalize treaty negotiations with other countries.

Implementation of all these treaties will result in so many interconnecting changes to Canadian IP law that it will take some time to sort out how this impacts Canadian business in a practical sense. Stay tuned for further updates and guidance on these developments.

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Don’t Overlook Industrial Designs: Part 2

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As mentioned in our previous post, industrial designs protect the visual features of a product (shape, configuration, pattern or ornament). Functional, utilitarian or useful elements are not eligible for protection. This was illustrated in Bodum USA, Inc. v. Trudeau Corporation, 2012 FC 1128 (CanLII), where the court found that Bodum’s double-walled drinking glass design was not infringed, since the competing product was not substantially similar in light of the many variations of double-walled glasses in the marketplace. The designs would have had to be virtually identical to support a finding of infringement.

A second interesting element to this case is the counterclaim by Trudeau Corp., who sued for a declaration that the Bodum design was invalid due to the prior art on the register. The court in Bodum confirmed that to be registrable, an industrial design must be substantially different from prior art. A simple variation is not enough. For a design to be considered original, there must be some “substantial difference” between the new design and what came before. “A slight change of outline or configuration, or an unsubstantial variation is not sufficient to enable the author to obtain registration.” In this case, the Court reviewed a number of other existing designs for double-walled glasses – one of which was designed in 1897 – and decided that Bodum’s design was not original. To come to this conclusion, the Court set aside the utilitarian functions, the materials used, and colours applied, and looked merely at the visual or ornamental features.

In the end, Bodum’s design did not satisfy the requirement of “substantial originality”, and the registration was expunged.

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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Don’t Overlook Industrial Designs: Part 1

image003.jpgIndustrial designs are like the shy cousins of much sexier patents and copyright. Sure, patents and copyright get all the attention, but industrial design can be a very reliable, useful tool in the intellectual property toolbox.  This category of protection (in the US, known as “design patents”) will protect the visual features of a product (shape, configuration, pattern or ornament). Functional, utilitarian or useful elements cannot be protected. Industrial design protection expires after 10 years, so it does not extend as long as patents or copyrights, but can provide protection for articles that are not eligible for either copyright or patent protection.

In Bodum USA, Inc. v. Trudeau Corporation, 2012 FC 1128 (CanLII), the court considered two competing double-walled drinking glasses, one of which (the design owned by Bodum) was registered as an industrial design. The double-wall configuration itself serves a utilitarian function: it keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. Thus, the double-walled feature could not be assessed in the infringement analysis. As described in the judgement: “The court has to decide only whether the alleged infringement has the same shape or pattern, and must eliminate the question of the identity of function, as another design may have parts fulfilling the same functions without being an infringement. Similarly, in judging the question of infringement the court will ignore similarities or even identities between the registered design and the alleged infringement which arise from functional matters included within the design.”

According to the Court, the competing product must be characterized as “substantially the same” for there to be infringement. This question must be analyzed by the Court from the point of view of how the informed consumer would see things. In the end, the Court decided that there was no infringement between Bodum’s design and the competing product.

Related Reading:

Industrial Design in Canada & US

Calgary – 07:00 MST

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A Distinctly Canadian Patent Fight

image002.gifAs NHL cancellations are pushed through Nov. 30th, hockey fans must resort to other means of entertainment. Try patent cases.

In Easton Sports Canada Inc. v. Bauer Hockey Corp. , 2011 FCA 83 (CanLII), the court reviewed allegations that Easton infringed Bauer’s Patent No. 2302935 (the ‘953 Patent). The ‘953 Patent was originally granted on November 20, 2001 and expires on September 4, 2018. One of the issues on appeal was whether the invention was disclosed during on-ice tests of the prototype skate.

A patent is invalid if the invention was disclosed by the inventor more than one year before the filing date of the patent. In this case, Easton attacked the validity of the ‘593 Patent by arguing that Bauer revealed the invention at a test event – a hockey game between Bauer employees, where the prototype skates were worn. The test event was open to the public and Easton argued that a spectator could have observed the skates and made out the essential elements of the invention. At trial and on appeal, the court rejected this argument.  Although the skates could be observed, they were not available for close inspection or dismantling by spectators, and merely observing the players wearing the skates during a game did not, in this case, “disclose or enable” the invention.

Lessons for business?

  • Disclosure of your invention prior to filing a patent application can be fatal to patentability.
  • Confidentiality agreements can be a useful tool to ensure that invention disclosure is not public – but these agreements should not be seen as a complete one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Any testing of the product – particularly field testing in a location where the public may have access – must be handled very carefully.
  • In Canada and the US, there is a 1-year grace period in which to file a patent application after the first disclosure, but that grace period is not available in all countries, and disclosure result in loss of patent rights in critical overseas markets.

Get advice from experienced patent counsel on patentability and the risks of early disclosure.

Calgary 07:00 MST

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Pinch and Zoom: Apple vs. Samsung

Last week, the ruling in Apple’s patent infringement lawsuit was released. Once upon a time the public was captivated by things like sensational celebrity trials. Now we have live-blogging of patent infringement verdicts. Oh, for simpler times!

In case you missed it, in a landmark decision that is certain to be appealed, Samsung was ordered to pay damages of over $1 billion for multiple infringements of Apple’s design and utility patents for smartphones and tablets. The infringement ruling covers trade-dress, design patents and utility patents including user-interface functions such as the now familiar pinch-and-zoom gesture, and the “rubberbanding” effect at screen margins.

What does this ruling mean? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Experts have estimated that the average smartphone relies on 250,000 patented technologies that are in-licensed from various device and technology manufacturers around the world. While many patents are at issue in this lawsuit, Apple’s ‘915 patent (Patent No. US 7,844,915, Filing date: 7 Jan 2007)  for pinch-and-zoom and related scrolling gestures was central to Apple’s infringement claims. Pinch-and-zoom has become such an intuitive gesture that I’ve seen kids try and perform it on the screens of portable DVD players and seat-back TVs. This particular ruling will impact smartphone and tablet makers who rely on Android. But it’s important to remember that this is not an appeal-level decision, nor does it extend beyond the US, so time will tell how other smartphone makers respond in Canada or globally.
  • The Android operating system would not offend Apple’s design and trade-dress rights (which cover the shape or appearance of the hardware), and Android has designed around the rubberbanding effect, so Android would not offend those claims of Apple’s patents. However, there is no doubt that Android smartphones and tablets all use pinch-and-zoom. The options are for Android (read: Google) to take a license from Apple, or design around with some alternate gesture. Invalidating the ‘915 patent would be another logical avenue. However, if that tactic had a good chance of success, Samsung would have succeeded by now.
  • The jury form was so complex (have a look for yourself: Jury Form , courtesy of Groklaw) that observers were surprised at how quickly the jury returned a verdict. The jury’s findings and instructions will very likely be the subject of the appeal process.
  • For a patent-by-patent, device-by-device breakdown of the verdict in this case, see this excellent review (courtesy of NDTV).
  • Interestingly, the jury found that Samsung’s devices did NOT infringe Apple’s ‘889 design patent (see our earlier post: Apple and Samsung: The Design Patent Wars Continue).

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Calgary – 07:00 MDT

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Apple and Samsung: The Design Patent Wars Continue

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In late June, Apple won one of the many battles that it is waging against one of its fiercest rivals – South Korea’s Samsung, manufacturer of the Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. Riding the wave of Google’s Android platform, Samsung has emerged as the world’s biggest handset maker, and arguably Apple’s biggest rival. Apple and Samsung are entagled in more ways than one, since Samsung also manufactures the A5 chipset that powers the latest models of iPad and iPhone. As the saying goes “Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.”

Apple’s latest win resulted in an injunction barring sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab in the US. That decision is being appealed. Meanwhile in the UK, Apple was ordered to publish a notice that Samsung did not copy the iPad. That decision is being appealed too. All of this is part of a global war (including AustraliaGermany and the Netherlands) that stems from Apple’s claims that Samsung copied the design of the iPad. This is one of the most interesting aspects of the case – that worldwide IP infringement claims can be based on the design of a consumer product, not its function. And it’s a design that is successful precisely because of its clean, minimalist simplicity that eschews ornamental features of any kind. Check out this design patent (PDF) (Apple’s D504,889 design patent), filed in 2004, upon which the US injunction is based, in part. The two companies are currently headed to a jury trial in the US.

Lessons for business?

  • Don’t forget to review relatively simple forms of intellectual property in your IP strategy. In this case, a simple industrial design (or in the US, a “design patent”) has provided ammunition in a battle between two of the most sophisticated technology companies on the planet.

IP for the Oil Patch – June 6, 2012

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Join the Field Law IP & Technology Group for a breakfast seminar on June 6, 2012, in Nisku, Alberta, on the following subjects:

  • patents for oilfield service companies;
  • intellectual property issues;
  • non-disclosure and confidential information in the oil patch;
  • copyright and trade-marks, brand protection.

Registration details: RSVP to rsvpEdmonton@fieldlaw.com or (403) 260-8502.

Calgary – 10:30 MDT

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