Basket Case: Article Name Limits Design Patent Claim

McDermott Will & Emery
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The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court finding that the article descriptor used in a design patent limited the scope of the claimed design. Curver Luxembourg, SARL v. Home Expressions Inc., Case No. 18-2214 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 12, 2019) (Chen, J).
Curver Luxembourg was granted a design patent entitled “Pattern for a Chair.” Curver’s design patent claims an “ornamental design for a pattern for a chair” and includes figures that show the design, as illustrated in Figure 1 below, from different perspectives. However, none of the figures illustrates a chair.

Home Expressions manufactured and sold baskets that incorporated the design, as illustrated below.

Curver sued, asserting that Home Expressions’ basket incorporating the design infringed Curver’s design patent. Home Expressions filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Curver’s design patent only protected the design as applied to a chair. The district court granted the motion, explaining that the “scope of a design patent is limited to the ‘article of manufacture’––i.e., the product––listed in the patent,” which in Curver’s design patent would be “a chair.” Curver appealed.

Curver argued that the figures in its design patent illustrated a “three-dimensional panel structure that includes the ornamental Y patterns,” and that the “three-dimensional panel” was a “component” of a product. Thus, a product that applied a design pattern to a basket could infringe a design patent that claimed the design for a chair.

The Federal Circuit, applying the “ordinary observer” test for design patent infringement, concluded that the design patent at issue was limited to chairs since the article of manufacture as recited in the claim was a chair. The Court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint.

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