On 23 April 2021, the Shanghai Intellectual Property Court (“Court”) announced judgments for ten cases involving intellectual property disputes including, inter alia, a design patent infringement case. The Court found that infringement was established, granting an injunction against future infringement and a monetary damage of RMB 200,000. The comments of the Court in this case shed some light on how similar designs are to be determined in the field of electronic calculators.
The plaintiff in this case is Casio Computer Co., Ltd. (“Casio”). The design at issue is Chinese Patent No. ZL201430094864.5, entitled “Electronic Calculator”, granted to Casio in 2014. The defendants are Shantou Eates Electronic Industrial Co., Ltd. and Shanghai Zongtong Industrial Co., Ltd. The former is the manufacturer of the allegedly infringing calculator, and the latter is the seller thereof. For ease of reference, the allegedly infringing calculator and the design at issue are reproduced below:
Left: Casio calculator design. Right: allegedly infringing design. Image provided by IP ForeFront
According to the Court, the front side of a calculator is the part that provides the most significant visual impact to a consumer. In respect of the design of the front side, the Court finds there is still certain degree of freedom for designers in terms of the specific shape of the functional keys and the layout thereof. As such, the layout of the keys in the design at issue is not necessarily a conventional design.
The Court concludes that the design of the allegedly infringing calculator and the design at issue constitute similar designs, in that the design of the allegedly infringing calculator is essentially the same as the design at issue in terms of the overall visual impacts they make. In reaching its conclusion, the Court specifically comments on the design of navigation keys (highlighted in red in the picture above). According to the Court, whilst the navigation key of the allegedly infringing calculator differs from that of the design at issue, the difference is merely an insignificant modification in view of its location and proportion to other parts of the calculators. Accordingly, the Court finds that the navigation key of the allegedly infringing calculator cannot distinguish it from the design at issue.