Industrial design is often overlooked while its flashier cousins – patents, copyright and trade-marks – hog the spotlight. In both Canada (which uses the term industrial design) and the US (which refers to a design patent), this category of intellectual property only provides protection for ornamental and not functional aspects of the design of the article. In the recent US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Richardson v. Stanley Works, Inc., No. 09-1354 (Fed. Cir. Mar. 9, 2010), the court reviewed two design patents claiming an ornamental design for multifunction carpentry tools. Stanley, the owner of the “Fubar” tool (shown left)was sued by Richardson, the owner of the “Stepclaw” tool (shown right) . The Court was clear that the patented design is for a multi-function tool that has several functional components, and that “a design patent, unlike a utility patent, limits protection to the ornamental design of the article.” The Court found that the only similarities between the two tools were those of unprotectable functional elements, and thus no infringement occurred.
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