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Drawings, Drawings, Drawings!

The scope of a US design patent is defined by the patent’s drawings, right?

But what if the drawings don’t show the design applied to the “article of manufacture” claimed in the patent? The Federal Circuit recently held that the language of a design patent’s claim can also limit the scope of the patent. The patent at issue related to an overlapping “Y” design for a mesh material, and claimed “the ornamental design for a pattern for a chair, as shown and described.” The patent drawings showed the Y-mesh pattern, but alas, no chair! When the patent owner asserted the patent against a storage basket with a similar Y-mesh, the district court dismissed for failing to set forth a plausible claim of infringement – a basket’s not a chair, after all. The CAFC affirmed, finding that no “ordinary observer” could be deceived into purchasing the accused baskets believing that they were the claimed chairs, limiting the patent’s coverage to the “chair” recited in the claim but not shown in the drawings.

In hindsight, what if the patent had claimed the design as a “mesh material” rather than a “chair”?

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