When considering patent drawings, technically complex illustrations of intensely intricate products are likely the first thing to spring to mind. And for good reason…there can be many years of expensive research, development and intellectual property valued in millions – or multi-millions – of dollars at stake. It is well-recognized that legal protection comes by thoroughly documenting and establishing critical details of function and purpose and by providing highly detailed renderings within a utility patent application.
On the surface, trademark and design patent illustrations may appear to provide a much simpler representation – and thus fulfill a less critical purpose – than that required in utility patent drawings, but in actuality their importance cannot be overstated.
Just like utility drawings, the illustrations presented in trademark and design patent applications must also meet stringent USPTO and PTO requirements and work to not only fully represent the product, but highlight important design elements to firmly and legally establish those elements in order to prevent competitors from bringing forth designs considered “confusingly similar” by the average consumer in the marketplace.
A current court case between well-known shoe-maker, Converse, and “fair trade fashion” company, Autonomie Project, shines a spotlight on this very issue.
In an 18-page lawsuit, Converse asserts that Autonomie is selling “confusingly similar” shoes marketed as “Ethletic High Top” and “Low Top” sneakers which infringe protected design and trademark elements contained in Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star shoes:
“…including but not limited to the design of two stripes on a midsole, the design of a toe cap, the design of a multi-layered toe bumper featuring diamonds and line patterns, and the relative position of these elements to each other.”
The legal complaint declares that on Autonomie’s own website, consumers have commented that they are “just copying Converse Chucks style,” that Autonomie itself brags that their products are “the newest incarnation of Converse,” and that the top response they receive from consumers about their product is that “They look like [Converse’s] Chuck Taylor’s.”
Converse further states:
“First introduced around 1917, Converse has spent millions of dollars advertising and promoting shoes bearing the Converse Trade Dress…Converse has sold shoes bearing the Converse Trade Dress throughout the world and in every state of the United States.”
Prior to filing the lawsuit, Converse attempted to stop the alleged “intentional and willful” infringement by presenting Autonomie with a cease and desist letter, but to no avail.
A successful product can bring with it the temptation for competitors to try to duplicate that success not through hard work and diligence of their own, but simply by copying and infringing upon another’s rights and thereby reaping undue benefit.
While unscrupulous actions by others cannot always be avoided, patent drawings by top-caliber professional illustrators utilizing state-of-the-art CAD/design software can help discourage those actions and provide legal evidence of ownership and prior use in order to receive injunctive relief, damages and attorney fees, in the event it becomes necessary.