Determining whether a design alteration is patent infringement

By Jiang Fengtao and Ding Sha, Hengdu Law Offices

Designs are a major factor of whether a product will satisfy consumer needs for personalization. A striking design can play a key role in expanding market share of a product which has relatively minor functional differences from its competitors. Designs are also easier to imitate than the functional or structural features of a product, which is why an increasing number of designers and market players have begun to focus on application of design patents.

While infringement disputes over design patents have increased in recent years, there has been a tangible downward trend of direct copying of designs. Distinguishing between the various types of “possible infringement” has become a focal point of investigations into design infringement – as well as one of its difficulties.

There are a number of opinions on how this can be addressed, but available cases can provide industry practitioners with needed guidance on how to determine design infringement.

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Jiang Fengtao is the managing partner and Ding Sha is an associate of Hengdu Law Offices