Bissell Homecare v. Wildwood Industries (W.D. Mich. 2009)
This case is not likely to move much beyond the pleadings because the accused infringer (Wildwood) has declared bankruptcy. Wildwood sells replacement filters for Bissell vacuums. Earlier this year, Bissell sued Wildwood for infringement of its design patent (D565818) as well as trademark infringement for advertising “Bissell style” filters. [Link]. Of course, the validity of this design patent is questionable because the shape appears to be almost completely dictated by a need for the removable filter to fit within the standard compartment. “[I]t has long been settled that when a configuration is the result of functional considerations only, the resulting design is not patentable as an ornamental design for the simple reason that it is not “ornamental” – was not created for the purpose of ornamenting. In re Carletti, 328 F.2d 1020 (C.C.P.A. 1964); Hueter v. Compco Corp., 179 F.2d 416; Best Lock Corp. v. Ilco Unican Corp., 94 F.3d 1563 (Fed. Cir. 1996); Static Control Components, Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc., 487 F. Supp. 2d 830 (E.D. Ky. 2007).
In recent years (and in the wake of Wal-Mart v. Samara), design patents have begun be more aggressively asserted by manufacturers in place of (or alongside) trade dress claims. See Coach, Inc. v. Brown Shoe Company, Inc., 09-cv-05051 (S.D.N.Y., Complaint Filed May 29, 2009) (handbag); Hubbell v. Dynamic Lighting (light fixture); Deckers v. Bon-Ton (Kona Boot); NetGear v. Tong Ho Fong (wireless router); Nufix v. Bacterin Int’l. (surgical implant); Oakley v. Pacific Trade (sunglasses); Nike v. Not for Nothi’n (Air Jordan shoes); Poof-Slinky, Inc. v. Ja-Ru, Inc. (toy rocket); Lowes Co Inc, et al v. Pelican Products Inc (flashlight); Williams-Sonoma, Inc. v. Linen Source Inc (lamp – Indian design patents asserted in US court); Olivet International, Inc. v. Skyway Luggage Company (luggage wheel rims); Cartier et al v. Egana of Switzerland (watch); Plantronics, Inc. v. Wireless Connections NY, Inc. (earloop receiver); BELL HELICOPTER TEXTRON INC. et al v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN et al (helicopter design).