Federal Circuit Upholds Ford Team’s Successful Ruling on F-150 Design Patents

Friday, July 26, 2019

Brooks Kushman Shareholders Marc Lorelli and Frank Angileri were mentioned in Law360’s July 24, 2019 article, “Fed. Circ. Upholds Ford's Victory On F-150 Design Patents.” 

The article discusses the recent precedential Federal Circuit ruling upholding a Michigan federal judge’s decision to uphold two design patents covering Ford F-150 hoods and headlamps. The lawsuit was brought by the Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) who argued that Ford’s patents are functional, and under the law a design patent cannot cover a “primarily functional” design.

Circuit Judge Kara Stoll said that if truck buyers prefer the “distinctive appearance” of Ford’s designs, that is precisely the type of market advantage “‘manifestly contemplate[d]’ by Congress in the laws authorizing design patents.”

The case was originally ruled in favor of the Ford team in the Eastern District of Michigan by Judge Laurie Michelson in February 2018 when the court refused to find the patents invalid. In her ruling, Judge Michelson said the ABPA had “effectively ask[ed] this court to eliminate design patents on auto-body parts.”

On appeal, the ABPA advocated the Federal Circuit to borrow a standard from trademark law known as “aesthetic functionality,” but the Federal Circuit refused to do so because trademarks and design patents serve different purposes. A key factor noted was that trademark rights are potentially permanent, whereas patent rights expire after a certain period.

The Brooks Kushman team on the case also included shareholder Linda Mettes

To read the full article, click here.

Click here to read the order.