Patent Law

Appeals Ruling Strengthens Design Patents


Patent lawyers say a rare en banc ruling this week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit strengthens design patents.

The decision (PDF) holds that in design infringement suits, courts should use the “ordinary observer” test, which asks whether the designs are substantially the same in the eyes of an ordinary observer, Legal Times reports. The court dropped the “point of novelty” test that said a design infringes another if it incorporates the novelty of the patented design.

The case is Egyptian Goddess v. Swisa. Lawyers told Legal Times that “point of novelty” analysis was difficult to apply and had eroded design patents, making them less valuable.

The new test didn’t help Egyptian Goddess, the maker of a nail buffer, the Daily Journal reports (sub. req.). The court said the company’s patent infringement claim was unsuccessful under both the ordinary observer standard and the point of novelty test.

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