In 2009 the Patent Office issued a design patent for a table invented by Brandon S. Judkins. From the pictures in the patent application it looks like a very cool table but I fail to see the novelty in it. Of course, I'm no furniture connoisseur and neither do I have the intellectual fortitude or desire to change to be a patent attorney, but Mr. Judkins is. Upon visiting several retailers he noticed Ralph Lauren apparel displayed on tables quite similar to his design and filed suit for infringement. Mr. Judkins alleges that Ralph Lauren is infringing the patent directly by "importing into the United Sates, and/or making, using, selling, and/or offering for sale in the United States….tables that embody the patented design…" Not only does the complaint allege direct infringement by Ralph Lauren, but also contributory infringement for inducing retailers to use the tables. (Case 1:11-cv-00661-RLY-DML) In 2008 the Federal Circuit abandoned the point of novelty test for the ordinary observer test in Egyptian Goddess v. Swisa Inc., 543 F.3d 665. Under this test if an ordinary observer could be confused because the designs are so similar that a consumer might purchase one believing it to be the other, then there's infringement. The trouble is that the patented table is very basic, beautiful, but basic. So although it seems as though it will be quite difficult to police the design to prevent future infringement, the ordinary observer test should be a fairly easy standard to meet.
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