Federal Circuit No. 2015-1253

The Federal Circuit overturns construction of claims of design patent that eliminates functional elements.

The claim of Coleman's U.S. Patent No. D623,714 is for the ornamental design of a personal flotation device, i.e., a life-jacket. The design included two armbands and a tapered torso piece. The District Court determined that the armbands and the tapered design were functional elements, and, therefore, completely excluded these elements from the claim construction.

The Federal Circuit rejected the District Court's claim construction. Design patents protect an overall design as illustrated, and not an aggregation of separable elements. Therefore, the District Court erred in eliminating the functional armbands and tapering from the claims. Instead, the District Court "should not focus on the particular designs of these elements when determining infringement, but rather focus on what these elements contribute to the design’s overall ornamentation."

In view of the above, the Federal Circuit remanded this proceeding.