Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Déjà vu all over again

In my regular perusal of the blawgs, especially the IP ones, I came across a rather heated discussion on Dennis Crouch’s excellent Patently-O on the use of design patents (the US equivelant, roughly, of our registered designs) to protect designs for car parts. It’s hard to believe that the Americans are only now tearing each other apart over this as we did in the 1980s …
Each to their own, and the US law in this area is sufficiently different from ours as to make comparisons difficult. But I hope they don’t make the same mistakes we made, pruning the duration of (unregistered) protection so there’s hardly anything left, carving out exceptions to protection that are almost as wide as the protection was to start with, and capping it all off with compulsory licensing and licensing of right provisions. I always thought that the vehicle manufacturers lost the battle by overstating their case. And it wasn’t a battle that should have been fought out in the intellectual property arena anyway: it raised important product liability and safety issues which should have been addressed as such.
I believe that US law on dealer protection has a great deal to teach us, so perhaps it’s only right that we should offer them the benefit of our experience in dealing with design protection for parts.

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