BLOGS: Furniture Law Blog

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Monday, June 21, 2010, 9:33 AM

Century America Sues On Three Design Patents

On June 10, 2010, cabinet and hardware designer and retailer Century America, LLC (Grand Rapids, Michigan) sued Knobs and Pulls.com, Inc. (Nampa, Idaho) and Pride Industrial, LLC (Cincinnati, Ohio) in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan for infringement of United States Design Patent Nos. D553,944; D558,557; and D574,216. The design patents cover cabinet handles and pulls. Fig. 8 from the '944 patent and Fig. 1 from the '557 patent are shown below.


Naos Sues On Extendable Table Patent

On June 8, 2010, Italian design company Naos, SRL (Florence, Italy) filed a patent infringement action against Sunset International Trade, LLC, CSN Stores, LLC, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for infringing United States Patent No. 5,458,070, entitled "Extendable Table With Two Rotating Elements, For Use As A Piece Of Furniture." A copy of the complaint may be found by clicking here.

A figure from the '070 patent is shown below:

Wal-Mart's version of the table:




True Innovations Sues On Design Patent

On June 1, 2010, True Innovations, Inc. filed a complaint in the Northern District of California against Marco Group, Inc. (Missouri) and Zhejiang Qianglong Seating Co. (China) alleging infringement of United States Design Patent No. D494,791 entitled "Chair Arm Support" (Civil Action No. 10-cv-2499-EDL). A copy of the complaint may be found by clicking here.


The '791 patent is a good example of claiming just a portion of an item of furniture. The solid lines in the drawings define the scope of the claims. Here, the patentee True Innovations is claiming just the arm support. The support may appear on any chair and still infringe the '791 patent. A copy of the '791 patent is attached to the complaint and Fig. 1 is reproduced below:

Monday, June 14, 2010, 11:58 AM

Fabric Printing Company Loses Bid To Enforce Design Based On "Clip Art"

Fabric printing company L.A. Printex sued clothing retailer Aeropostale and its supplier for infringing Printex's copyright registration for a textile design entitled "Geometric" in the Central District of California. The registration include 13 distinct patterns. The allegedly infringed pattern consists of a series of identically-sized snowflakes arranged in a heart-shaped pattern. Printex's designer copies the design for the snowflakes from Adobe Photoshop 7.0's "clip art" collection.

In its summary judgment motion, Aeropostale argued: (1) the Adobe End User License Agreement prevented Printex from registering derivative works based on clip art; (2) Printex fraudulently misled the Copyright Office by failing to disclose the Adobe clip art; and (3) Printex's registration is for a group and Printex failed to offer evidence that it published the patterns as a "single unit" as the Copyright Act requires.

The court rejected the first two arguments, holding that the EULA only prohibited users from asserting rights in the software and because of that, Printex had not failed to disclose a fact that might have prevented the Copyright Office from issuing the registration. However, the court held that Printex failed to submit any evidence that it published the snowflake design independent of the other designs in the registration. Noting that the Copyright Office has not promulgated regulations allowing for group registrations of fabric patterns, the court held that Printex did not have a valid registration in the snowflake design alone.

The opinion underscores the need to evaluate the material for which protection is sought, and how to craft the appropriate protections for those materials. The full opinion may be found here.
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