Federal Circuit Rejects Point of Novelty Test for Design Patent Infringement
By Anna Lamut — Edited by Stephanie Weiner
Egyptian Goddess v. Swisa
CAFC, September 22, 2008,
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court for the Northern District of Texas, which had granted summary judgment in favor of Swisa, Inc, finding that no jury could reasonably find Swisa’s nail-buffer design infringed Egyptian Goddess’s design patent.
A panel of the Federal Circuit had upheld the District Court’s decision on August 29, 2007, applying the “point of novelty” test for design patent infringement. On November 26, the Federal Circuit vacated the panel’s decision, deciding to hear the appeal en banc to determine the proper standard for assessing claims of design patent infringement.
The point of novelty test states that “the accused device must appropriate the novelty in the patented device which distinguishes it from the prior art.” Sears, Roebuck & Co. v. Talge, 140 F.2d 395, 396 (8th Cir.1944). This test requires that in order to find infringement, a court must attribute the similarity of two items to the novelty which distinguishes the patented device from the prior art. By contrast, the “ordinary observer” test, established in 1871 in Gorham Co. v. White looks for substantial similarity between the two designs, as taken from the viewpoint of an ordinary observer familiar with the prior art. The Federal Circuit held that the point of novelty test should no longer be used to assess claims of design patent infringement, favoring the ordinary observer test instead. (more…)