Ford Design Patent for Hood of F-150 Is Valid

Written July 29, 2019

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on July 23, 2019, held that Ford Motor Company’s design patents for hood and head lamp designs on its F-150 trucks are valid because they aren’t functional, but ornamental. Auto. Body Parts Ass’n v. Ford Global Techs., LLC, Fed. Cir., No. 18-1613, opinion unsealed 7/23/19.

Ford sued members of the Automotive Body Parts Association, a trade group of vehicle parts distributors, at the International Trade Commission for selling infringing replacement parts. The ABPA argued that Ford’s patents were invalid because they were actually “dictated by function,” explaining that because customers prefer parts that match the truck’s overall appearance, the fact that the designs match the truck’s appearance created a “functional benefit.”

The Federal Circuit disagreed, saying that “to hold that designs that derive commercial value from their aesthetic appeal are functional” would “gut” design patent principles.