"Design is Always Part of the Equation"

USPTO Design Day Features IDSA Fellows and Members

Declaring “it’s an exciting time to be a designer,” IDSA member and Apple's first industrial design director Robert Brunner served as the keynote speaker on April 14, 2015 at the 9th annual US Patent and Trademark Office’s Design Day at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

USPTO staff, design patent attorneys and representatives from corporations and design firms across the country discussed “Designs Worth Protecting.”

Brunner, the son of an engineer, initially considered a career in engineering, but soon found his calling in ID. “For me, industrial design made perfect sense,” he told the full house.

Brunner, founder and partner of Ammunition Group, now deals with clients ranging from Adobe to Zephyr—and in between, Beats by Dr. Dre, Dell, Ferrari, Intel, Kohler, Microsoft, Polaroid, Skype and Williams-Sonoma. He offered advice on “Being Design Driven” including:

  • “If you don’t build positive equity in brands, your design is not working.”
  • “Risk is not a four-letter word.”
  • “The idea of innovation is completely tied to risk.”
  • “Technology enables; design establishes.”
  • “The idea is as or more important than the object itself.”
  • “Design is always part of the equation.”

Patent Commissioner Peggy Focarino kicked off the event by thanking sponsors including IDSA. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without your collaboration,” she said.

Focarino also had words of wisdom for the attendees. “Quality drawings lead to stronger design protection,” she advised. “Designs have become so critically important all over the globe.”

Robert Olszewski, director of the USPTO’s Technology Center 2900, said 38,000 applications likely will be filed this year and that his office expects to hire 30 more patent examiners to add to the current number of 143 to keep up with the load, as the United States, Japan and Korea join the Hague Agreement on May 13, 2015. The agreement is an international registration system which offers the possibility of obtaining protection for up to 100 industrial designs in member countries and intergovernmental organizations by filing a single international application in one language.

“It’s not a job like any other,” said Garth Rademaker, USPTO supervisory patent examiner. “Design law is tremendously different from utility law…. I’ve been here 10 years and I still see something different every day.”

He, too, suggested applicants “aim for the highest quality drawings.”

A panel on “When to Walk in Wooden Shoes—Making Sense of the Hague Agreement on Industrial Design” featured Brent Dougal, attorney; Mark Charles, senior counsel at The Procter & Gamble Company and Boris Milef, USPTO’s senior PCT legal examiner.

Sachiko Chiba of the Japan Patent Office discussed “Effective Utilization of the Design System in Japan.”

Charles L. Mauro, IDSA, moderated a panel on “Recent Changes in the Law Have Impacted Design Experts.” “It was great to see IDSA contributing to the larger field of design IP through active participation in key USPTO events,” says Mauro. “The audience response seemed strong and positive with serious questions.”

The panel featured three IDSA Fellows and former Presidents: Cooper Woodring, Peter Bressler and Ron Kemnitzer. Woodring joined IDSA in 1967 and cofounded the Design Protection Section. Bressler joined IDSA in 1973 and cofounded the Philadelphia Chapter. Kemnitzer serves as professor emeritus of industrial design at Virginia Tech, where IDSA hosts a Student Chapter.

"Business has already recognized the strategic importance of design, but now business is quickly coming to the consensus that the IP generated by design also is critically valuable and strategic in nature," says IDSA Board Chair Charles Austen Angell, founder and CEO of Modern Edge. "Unfortunately there are poorly constructed patents which are resulting in a total loss of intellectual property. Design, business and legal need to team-up; the best things designers can do is to find the most experienced legal help possible in constructing their patents. Pinching pennies on a patent is a lot like saving money on a motorcycle helmet—bad prioritization."

Angell adds that IDSA has been making a concerted effort over the years through its Design Protection Section to provide information to the membership. In the last three years, the dialogue has been elevated with breakouts at national conferences, special events, training seminars, and participation in key legal issues. The Design Protection Section has formed strategic relationships which benefit everyone in the creative business. 

"We’re committed to protecting the ownership rights of the creative industry," says Angell.

Also in attendance at Design Day: IDSA Executive Director Daniel Martinage, CAE; and IDSA Women in Design Section Co-Founder and Chair and IDSA Fellow Nancy J. Perkins

The event was co-sponsored by the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the Intellectual Property Law Section of the American Bar Association and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.