Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference.
Fingernail buffers, for instance. These small, inexpensive items recently produced a major court decision, dramatically revising the fundamentals of one type of IP protection.
In the U.S., design patents haven't garnered the respect they deserve. These patents protect the purely ornamental aspects of manufactured items, such as the shape of automobile mufflers or the appearance of digital audio players. To be protected, a design must be new, original and nonfunctional. Once patented, the patentee gets the exclusive right to the design for 14 years.
Recognizing that the point of novelty test created some serious problems, the Federal Circuit in Egyptian Goddess did away with this part of its two-prong test for infringement. Unfortunately, the court failed to clearly indicate what the new test for infringement should be. "The opinion has at least five different potential tests for infringement," Carani says.