WASHINGTON (Mar. 6, 2014) – The R Street Institute today announced the launch of Unfair By Design, a project seeking to make the design patent system more transparent and less susceptible to frivolous lawsuits.

Recent legislation in Congress has focused on creating a more open and harmonized patent system, but these bills do little to address flaws in the design patents system, which has been growing rapidly in number of applications and grants. Under current infringement standards, if one design element is substantially similar to a patented competitor, one can be held liable for potentially hundreds of millions in damages, even if the element is something as simple as rounded edges on a smartphone.

“The application system for design patents has long been deeply flawed and opaque, a fact which has become more disconcerting in recent years as courts have significantly expanded the definition of what counts as infringement. Serious questions can be raised about whether design patents are needed at all, but at the very least, the process should be changes to ensure fewer frivolous and anticompetitive patents are granted,” said Zachary Graves, digital marketing director at R Street. “We’re excited about the formation of this project and hope to welcome new partners on board.”

Graves went on to describe how Congress could affect real change with to the patent system and named three principles for design patent reform: More transparency in the application and publication process, curbing abuse and “evergreening” of design patent applications and education about the design patents process for lawmakers.

“We are heartened that Congress and the Federal Trade Commission are addressing this important issue. These are steps in the right direction, but we must ensure that design patent reform is not overlooked,” Graves said.

For more information, please visit www.unfairbydesign.org

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