In reference to the patent: USD559850

In an article on bloomberg titled "Got a Hot Seller on Amazon? Prepare for E-Tailer to Make One Too" Harvey Tai, general manager of Rain Design Inc, a company who sells a laptop stand on Amazon, says: “But there’s nothing we can do because they didn’t violate the patent.” in regards to Amazon making a laptop stand identical to theirs.

How can Amazon make a laptop stand identical to one that is protected by a patent, and not violate said patent?


Short answer is that the knock-off is not identical to either the commercial embodiment or the design patent (or at least, the manufacturer and seller don't think a court/jury would find differently). Note, a design patent only protects the design of an object (namely, the way it looks -- whether surface ornamentation or its exact configuration), and not any useful feature, per se.


In this example, there are many design choices shown in the patent and sold item that the knock-off doesn't appropriate (or again, at least the manufacturer/seller hopes not). The test is essentially whether an ordinary observer would find the two designs "substantially the same" where the claimed design and the accused design are to be considered as a whole, not compared element by element, and the determination is done "in light of the prior art."

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