Curtain Wars Continue – Judge Schofield Construes Design Patent Claim Term

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On October 14, 2021, United States District Judge Lorna G. Schofield (S.D.N.Y.) construed the scope of U.S. Design Patent No. 668,091 (“the D091 Patent”) in a dispute between Sure Fit Home Products, LLC, SF Home Décor, LLC, Zahner Design Group, Ltd., and Hookless Systems of North America, Inc. (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) and Maytex Mills, Inc. (“Defendant”). This decision follows the Court’s denial of a preliminary injunction request by Plaintiffs, addressed previously.

The Court construed the claim of the D091 Patent as follows:

“The D091 Patent claims a shower curtain which incorporates the ornamental design shown in the drawings in solid lines. The broken lines in the drawings represent unclaimed subject matter. When the shower curtain is viewed from the front, the D091 Patent claims the vertical orientation of the slits running through the reinforcing rings to the top of the curtain. The D091 Patent does not claim the slits when viewed from behind. The jagged lines at the edge of the drawings show that the curtain and rings extend outward, and the jagged lines at the bottom of the drawings show that the curtain extends downward.”

The Court noted that “design patents typically are claimed as shown in drawings.” (internal citations omitted). The Court addressed two important conventions for claim construction of a design patent: 1) “the use of broken lines to signify non-claimed subject matter”, and 2) “the use of jagged lines to signal that an item extends or continues past the depicted extent of a drawing.”

The Court noted that the D091 Patent included broken lines. As such, “it is plain from the D091 Patent’s drawings, as well as its written description, that the shower curtain rod is not a claimed feature of the design.” “The proper construction of the drawings excludes the elements shown depicted with broken lines – the shower curtain and the back of the slits.” While Defendant argued that the frontal portions of the slits were purely functional, and should be construed as if they had broken lines, the Court rejected this argument. Although the vertical slit provides a functional purpose, it is not “purely functional.”

The Court also noted the use of jagged lines in the D091 Patent. These lines “indicate that the shower curtain has the same shape and pattern of rings through its entire length and extends outward and down to its full extent.” “The jagged lines are consistent with depiction of an entire shower curtain, as they signal that the curtain edge and rings extend rightward, and that the curtain edge extends downward.” The Court found that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the jagged lines to have this meaning.

The case is Sure Fit Home Products, LLC v. Maytex Mills, Inc., No. 21-cv-2169 (LGS) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 14, 2021)

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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