Design Patent Figures Are Not the Only Source of Claim Limitations

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CURVER LUXEMBOURG, SARL v. HOME EXPRESSIONS INC.

Before Chen, Hughes, and Stoll. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Summary: Claim language specifying the article of manufacture can limit the scope of a design patent where the article is not shown in the figures.

Curver’s design patent included figures for an ornamental design disembodied from any article of manufacture.  Under 35 U.S.C. § 171, design patents are for a “new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.” During prosecution, to address the examiner’s requirement that the patent designate a particular article, the applicant amended the title from “FURNITURE (PART OF-)” to “Pattern for a chair,” and made similar changes to the claim and figure descriptions.  Curver asserted the patent against HEI’s baskets.  The district court dismissed the suit because the patent was limited to chairs only, and the Federal Circuit affirmed.  The Federal Circuit recognized that claim of a design patent is traditionally based on the figures.  However, the Federal Circuit held that claim language can limit the scope of a design patent where the claim language supplies the only instance of an article of manufacture that appears nowhere in the figures.

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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