The Federal Circuit Reaffirms that Obviousness in the Design Patent Context is Determined From the View Point of an “Ordinary Designer”

In High Point Design v. Buyer’s Direct, No. 2012-1455 (Fed. Cir. 2013), the Court reversed the district court’s summary judgment of invalidity of Buyer’s Direct’s design patent, i.e. U.S. Design Patent No. D598,183, due to obviousness, on the grounds that the district court had improperly assessed obviousness from the point of view of the “ordinary observer.”  Per the Court, in determining the obviousness of design patents, the proper frame of reference is that of the “ordinary designer” rather than the ordinary observer.  Prior to High Point, language in the Federal Circuit’s decision in International Seaway Trading Corp. v. Walgreens Corp. had suggested that obviousness of a design patent was to be determined by an “ordinary observer,” contrary to past precedent.  The High Point decision clears up this ambiguity in the law by reaffirming past precedent that in the context of design patents, obviousness is to be determined from the viewpoint of an ordinary designer.