Amicus Briefs

IDSA has a rich history of submitting Amicus Curiae briefs in court cases to protect the interests of the organization, its membership and more generally the field of industrial design. IDSA has often filed amicus brief in intellectual property cases, including cases involving the laws of patents (both utility and design), trademarks, trade dress and copyright. 

The term Amicus Curiae derives from Latin and means “Friend of the Court.” Amicus briefs are generally aimed at protecting the interests of individuals or organizations who are not litigant in the court proceedings but whose interests are potentially jeopardized by the legal holdings of the case. Courts have welcomed the input from amici, who are thought to be impartial as they are not directly vested in the outcome of a given dispute.  Amici often provide the court historical perspective, technical assistance and/or insights into potential “real world” consequences of a particular holding that go beyond that which the litigants can, or wish to, provide. Indeed, the mere filing of an amicus brief can signal to a court that a case is significant and implicates broader issues than just the litigants’ interests.

Forward looking, where warranted and after careful deliberation, IDSA will continue its tradition of filing amicus briefs to protect the interests of the organization and serve as an active “friend of the court.” Below is an ongoing collection of the amicus briefs IDSA has supported or directly filed.



Columbia Sportswear v. Seirus Innovative Accessories 
Filed: January 27, 2020

On January 27, 2020, IDSA filed an amicus brief supporting a petition which asked the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to revisit a recent holding, that if left untouched, would negatively affect designers ability to protect innovative designs with U.S. design patents. Specifically, the recent court holding in Columbia Sportswear v. Seirus Innovative Accessoriesintroduced a sweeping new rule that permits branding on an otherwise identical accused design to serve as a differentiator that must be considered in the design patent infringement test. Prior, long-standing, precedent of the court, however, had (rightfully) held that branding, such as logos and labels, on the accused products should be ignored. 

The IDSA brief not only pointed out this prior precedent, but explained why branding on the accused product should be irrelevant to the analysis. Referencing research in cognitive science, the IDSA brief provided the court insights into how injecting branding into the analysis would distort the faithful application of the design patent infringement test. Specifically, and among other things, IDSA pointed to research showing that two identically-shaped products will be perceived by the ordinary observer as being different if one is branded and one is not. Considerations of brand equity, which tap into deeper emotional, motivational and psychological factors critical to consumer decision making, while relevant to trade mark and trade dress cases is not relevant to design patent infringement cases. 

A decision from the court whether to rehearing the case is expected by the end of February 2020. IDSA offers a special thanks to design patent attorney Damon Neagle of Design IP and Charles Mauro of Mauro Usability Science who authored and prepared the IDSA amicus brief at no charge to the organization.


Converse Inc. v. International Trade Commission 
Filed: February 1, 2017

IDSA filed an amicus brief on February 1, 2017 by James Aquilina of Design IP. It states, “IDSA's interests in this case are to: (i) advocate for strong trademark rights for iconic product configurations that have acquired secondary meaning as source identifiers; and (ii) foster and encourage a transparent and just legal system that affords owners of registered trademarks for famous product configurations the full extent of legal protections available to them … important to industrial designers, trademark owners and the purchasing public.”

“This decision is significant to IDSA members and the broader industrial design community,” explains IDSA Executive Director Daniel Martinage, CAE. “Without robust trade dress trademark protections, there are no other meaningful ways to protect iconic industrial designs such as those that weather the test of time and capture consumer attention for decades—where design patents have not been sought or where design patents once covered a design—but have expired.”

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Samsung v. Apple
Filed: June 8, 2016

IDSA filed an amicus brief on June 8, 2016. It does not take a side in Samsung v. Apple; rather, the brief supports Section 289 of US law—and the protection it “provides to industrial designers, innovative companies and ultimately society as a whole.” IDSA's Board of Directors along with a review team of Charles MauroPeter Bressler, FIDSANancy Perkins, FIDSA; and Cooper Woodring, FIDSA—worked closely with attorney Robert Katz, A/IDSA, who served as counsel of record on the brief.

The brief opens, “IDSA has a strong interest in offering advice to the Court on the importance of the protections that Section 289 provides to industrial designers, innovative companies and ultimately society as a whole. IDSA respectfully submits this brief for the benefit of the Court and in specific support of neither party.”

It elaborates on why Industrial design is important to companies, consumers and society—declaring that industrial designers work on a wide range of products and “combine creativity, business and engineering talent with information on product use, marketing and materials of construction to create the best and most appealing designs, and to make the product competitive with others in the marketplace.”

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