Friday, June 15, 2012

In Which Patent Law is Fun . . .

or at least the most fun I'm going to have for a while.

You'll have to excuse the extreme lack of posting around here. When I haven't been driving long ways to sit in the pouring rain and watch my daughter wallow in the mud play softball, I have been inhabiting the ever delightful world of Michigan Patent law (never mind that patent law is a federal matter, I'm paid to write only about the Michigan end of things and I don't want to quibble about  the details).  You might feel inclined to feign narcolepsy when the subject of patents comes up, but that is only because you are not yet privy to the sly humor of the federal judges on this subject.

For example, take a peek at this little tidbit from a case I read yesterday:  

As part of Response A, Henrob submitted a declaration to the Patent Office by Roger Staton Doo, an employee and Director of Henrob, in which Mr. Doo represented to the Patent Office the differences between the prior art preclamping, self-pierce riveter and method disclosed in the AI Article, and the claimed riveter and method (the “Doo Declaration”).
It was the "Doo Declaration" that had me laughing out loud.  I don't know whether the judge was thinking Scooby Doo or poopy doo, but either way I could tell that she thought the name "Roger Staton Doo" was a classic that needed to be immortalized via the cartoonishly formal "Doo Declaration."  Too juvenile?  That's what four days of patent law will do.

This one--about a guy who expressed his undying love for his hockey team by making a hat--  made me glad that I'm not a wearer of foam hats. 

Defendants want this Court to view the Wing Nut Sculpture as  merely a three dimensional foam depiction of a hardware screw device--in essence, something not original. Plaintiffs counter, however, that the Wing Nut Sculpture acts as a visual pun on the name of the hardware device. As explained by Plaintiffs, the “Wing” refers to the Detroit Red Wings. The “Nut” refers to a person who is fanatical in his or her devotion to something. Hence, as emphasized by Plaintiffs, “Wing Nuts” are literally fanatic supporters of the Detroit Red Wings and the “Wing Nut Sculpture” was designed as a novelty foam sculpture hat that expresses that idea in a very clever and original fashion. 
Hoo.  That description just sucks all the joy out of having a wing nut hat, doesn't it?  The way they're described here makes it clear that the judge thinks that even poor Roger Staton Doo is too dignified to don one.  The designer of the hat didn't make out too well either.  He tried to claim that the patent on his "wing nut" hat meant that others couldn't use images of the hat on their Red Wings merchandise.  The court disagreed and held that 
 depictions of the “wing nut” novelty hat on t-shirts and soft drink bottle caps did not infringe the design patent for the hat; ordinary observers could not possibly be deceived into purchasing shirts or soft drinks, thinking they were buying a hat.
I'm not sure which of us missed the point about the defendants making off with this poor guy's three dimensional foam pun, but I'll never again be tempted to claim that those patent judges don't have a sense of humor.

I'm sure there are many more patent law quotes to entertain us, but I have to leave now to watch more softball, even though it's not raining.

Happy Friday to all!