The Automotive Body Parts Association (ABPA) is continuing its efforts to challenge the validity and enforceability of design patents directed toward automotive body repair parts.
On July 23, 2019, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit published an opinion addressing the issues of functionality and patent exhaustion, which are part of ABPA’s legal case based on associational standing. The case involves two design patents allegedly directed toward a Ford F-150 hood and headlamp. Both patents have expired.
Although the Federal Circuit included language in the opinion that should be helpful to future design patent challenges, the Federal Circuit held that when considering the issue of alternative designs, only mechanical and utilitarian aspects of the design are to be considered and aesthetic aspects are to be ignored. ABPA respectfully continues to believe that aesthetic considerations should be considered on the alternative design issue, and this functionality issue currently is on appeal before the Federal Circuit in Ford Global Technologies LLC v. New World International.
The Federal Circuit also held in its opinion that the hood and headlamp design patents were not exhausted because the article of manufactures originally sold were the hood and headlamp and not the F-150 truck. ABPA respectfully believes the Federal Circuit provided no persuasive reasoning in its opinion for why the portion claimed in the design patent could not be considered to be embodied in the F-150 truck as well as in the hood and headlamp, which ABPA contends would lead to patent exhaustion. This issue also currently is on appeal before the Federal Circuit in Ford Global Technologies LLC v. New World International.
On February 10, 2020, ABPA filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court on issues decided by the Federal Circuit in ABPA v. FGTL. The petition will be distributed for conference of March 6, 2020.
The Ford Global Technologies LLC v. New World International case now pending before the Federal Circuit has been fully briefed and we are waiting for an oral argument date, which will probably be during the summer months.
We will continue to keep you updated as the cases progress.
We invite those interested in contributing to the ABPA legal fund to do so by clicking the PayPal button below. You may also contact ABPA Executive Director Ed Salamy at 800-323-5832.