Don’t Overlook Industrial Designs: Part 2

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As mentioned in our previous post, industrial designs protect the visual features of a product (shape, configuration, pattern or ornament). Functional, utilitarian or useful elements are not eligible for protection. This was illustrated in Bodum USA, Inc. v. Trudeau Corporation, 2012 FC 1128 (CanLII), where the court found that Bodum’s double-walled drinking glass design was not infringed, since the competing product was not substantially similar in light of the many variations of double-walled glasses in the marketplace. The designs would have had to be virtually identical to support a finding of infringement.

A second interesting element to this case is the counterclaim by Trudeau Corp., who sued for a declaration that the Bodum design was invalid due to the prior art on the register. The court in Bodum confirmed that to be registrable, an industrial design must be substantially different from prior art. A simple variation is not enough. For a design to be considered original, there must be some “substantial difference” between the new design and what came before. “A slight change of outline or configuration, or an unsubstantial variation is not sufficient to enable the author to obtain registration.” In this case, the Court reviewed a number of other existing designs for double-walled glasses - one of which was designed in 1897 - and decided that Bodum’s design was not original. To come to this conclusion, the Court set aside the utilitarian functions, the materials used, and colours applied, and looked merely at the visual or ornamental features.

In the end, Bodum’s design did not satisfy the requirement of “substantial originality”, and the registration was expunged.

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