Validity of Ford design patents on replacement parts again upheld at the Federal Circuit

Ford v New World International, Appeal No. 2019-1746, June 22, 2020

At the district court level, New World argued that the holding in Best Lock Corp v. ILCO Unican Corp, 94 F.3d 1563 (Fed. Cir. 1996) applied, and that the claimed designs were invalid as “aesthetically functional”.  Ford argued that Best Lock was differentiable from the facts at hand in that, in Best Lock, no other key design would fit into the corresponding keyway.  Further, Ford argued, New World had conceded three facts that rendered the holding in Best Lock inapplicable:

The designs claimed in the patents at issue were created by artists employed by Ford to conceive designs having an aesthetically pleasing appearance to consumers

Replacement parts need not be within the scope of the design patents at issue in order to fit and function properly in Ford vehicles; and

Alternative part designs are commercially available that fit and function in Ford vehicles.

The district court granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment. In a subsequent jury trial, the jury found willful infringement and awarded damages to Ford just shy of $500K.  Ford then filed a motion for attorney’s fees with a request for upward adjustment.  The Court awarded attorney’s fees of over $2M to Ford, but declined to award expert fees or the lodestar amount requested.

The Federal Circuit agreed and affirmed the lower court’s ruling without writing a separate opinion.

The Supreme Court denied cert in ABPA v. Ford in March of 2020.