Judge Lucy Koh, who is presiding over the Samsung vs. Apple trial, wrote in an earlier ruling that, “It is the design patents that are at the core of this preliminary injunction motion.” In the unfolding Samsung vs. Apple legal battle Apple showcases its carefully crafted legal strategy and is playing it out on the courtroom stage.
The design patent seems to be playing a leading role in Apple’s cleverly constructed legal game plan. Apple states that Samsung “slavishly copied” the design of the iPad and the iPhone and these accusations are based squarely upon the parameters of the design patent.
Perhaps Apple was drawn to the design patent because it’s less expensive to obtain, or design patents enjoy faster prosecution than their utility patent cousins and/or because US Customs will prevent importation of infringing goods with an exclusion order for the ITC. The proof required and the parameters that need to be met, when claiming infringement of a design patent, is whether an ordinary observer, who is familiar with both your product and the product you claim has been infringed upon, could tell the difference. If this ordinary observer is fooled, you’re likely to get your infringement claim upheld.
In fact – before Apple began robustly hawking design patents, they were relatively unknown in the intellectual property world. Utility patents were far more common. Usually, design patents were obtained only for fields such as lighting and furniture. That is – until Apple began tediously and meticulously constructing a legal framework that relied heavily upon obtaining design patents for their consumer electronics..
From the beginning Apple has carefully and painstakingly pushed the traditional legal boundaries that protect their products. In the 1990s, Apple had seemingly perfected their one-of-a-kind method of wrapping layer upon fine layer of legal protections around each of their gadgetry.
It didn’t matter if it was Apple’s basic headphones or their far more complex iPad. Each invention enjoyed equal protective layering that included utility patents, design patents, trade dress, trade secrets and copyright protections to keep its competitors nowhere near their inventions.
Apple’s bloated intellectual property portfolio is proving pivotal in its current fight with Samsung. If Judge Koh agrees with Apple’s interpretations on how design patents should be used and protected, winning their battle with Samsung will feel not only like a vindication but will seem to suggest that Apple should continue to weave its intricately layered and multi-faceted legal web as a protective measure against other companies attempts to pirate their technology and steal their design ideas.
Perhaps Apple could obtain a copyright to change the design patent name to the more appropriate and current name – IPatent?
This is just a basic overview and is not legal advice specific to your situation. If you would like to speak with Jonathan about your situation, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 925-327-1019.