CURVER LUXEMBOURG, SARL v. HOME EXPRESSIONS INC.
- Sep 12 2019 |
- Category: CAFC Updates
Curver Luxembourg is the assignee of U.S. Design Patent No. D677,946 entitled “Pattern for a Chair” and claiming an overlapping “Y” design as an “ornamental design for a pattern for a chair.” The design patent’s figures, however, merely illustrate the design pattern disembodied from any article of manufacture. Curver sued Home Expressions alleging that Home Expressions made and sold baskets that incorporated Curver’s claimed design pattern and thus infringed the ’946 patent. Home Expressions moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that its accused baskets could not infringe because the asserted design patent was limited to chairs only. The district court agreed with Home Expressions and granted the motion. The question on appeal is whether the district court correctly construed the scope of the design patent as limited to the illustrated pattern applied to a chair, or whether the design patent covers any article, chair or not, with the surface ornamentation applied to it. In this case of first impression, the CAFC addresses for the first time whether claim language specifying an article of manufacture can limit the scope of a design patent, even if that article of manufacture is not actually illustrated in the figures. Given that long-standing precedent, unchallenged regulation, and agency practice all consistently support the view that design patents are granted only for a design applied to an article of manufacture, and not a design per se, the CAFC holds 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. The prosecution history shows that Curver amended the title, claim, and figure descriptions to recite “pattern for a chair” in order to satisfy the article of manufacture requirement necessary to secure its design patent. The CAFC holds that the scope of the ’946 patent is limited by those amendments, notwithstanding the applicant’s failure to update the figures to reflect those limiting amendments. Accordingly, the CAFC affirms the district court’s grant of Home Expressions’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a plausible claim of design patent infringement.