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I was doing research for a newly design ornamental articles for steering wheels designs. Came across the designs for Illuminated Steering Wheels. Two designs in particular were noted to be exactly the same. I check the USPTO Image File Wrapper on both Inventions, and if I am not mistake, both design inventions are the same. Even the claims were similar in the Specifications, the drawings were more specific with the Design Patent, but the Utility Patent have only one detail design of their feature invention. The Design Patent was granted earlier, but the Utility Patent was filed later and granted. How is that possible. Do the Examiners ever check their published designs. D623,571 and US 9,002,563.

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Firstly one is design patent D623571 and one is Utility Patent US9002563.

In design patent specific design is protected but in utility patent protection is defined by Claims and not by disclosure. While reading claim of said utility patent one can make out that claim is not taught or anticipated by earlier Design patent.

(1) A method comprising: determining a level of supervisory control of a vehicle required by a driver while the vehicle is employing an autonomous driving system, wherein the required level of supervisory control is determined by the driver's response to a prompt; and indicating, on a steering wheel, the level of supervisory control.

(10). A steering wheel, comprising: at least one indicator to indicate to a driver a level of sufficient supervisory control over a vehicle; a processor to control the at least one indicator, based on a level of supervisory control required to safely operate a vehicle while the vehicle is employing an autonomous driving system, wherein the required level of supervisory control is determined by the driver's response to a prompt.

(16) A vehicle system comprising: an autonomous driving system; at least one indicator on a steering wheel to signal a level of autonomy employed by the autonomous driving system in the vehicle; and a processor to: provide a prompt to a driver; monitor the driver's response to the prompt; and control the indicator's intensity based on whether the driver exercises sufficient supervisory control of a vehicle, wherein sufficient supervisory control of a vehicle is determined by the monitored driver's response to the prompt.

one need to compare above claims with design is it present or thought by same.

Do the Examiners ever check their published designs.

Yes they check most of the time its limited, as they are published in images and if text of title or abstract or claim does not contain searched keyword it will be missed out. generally with classification search art may popup but due to size of result it is limited by keywords and their lies the chance of missed out potential design prior art.

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