Telecommunications company Hop-on, which recently made news regarding their aggressive plans to enforce a design patent awarded to them around MP3 phones, announced today yet another design patent they plan to follow up with manufacturers on. Hop-on this time claims a patent for an "innovative flip phone design pending since 2005."
Design patents, according to Wikipedia, are defined as a patent "granted on the ornamental design of a functional item." These are different from traditional patents which protect, for example, a specific feature or function of a technology. Hop-on is claiming a design patent on what they are calling a "thin mobile telephone", saying it was "published in 2005 when every cell phone manufacturer appeared caught in the frenzy to manufacture new products" and that "the vast number of companies whose products infringed on this patent can be seen market wide. In addition, this frenzy compromised the due diligence process in determining the origination of new designs, resulting in patent infringement by larger corporations."
Hop-on, which added no lawsuits have yet been filed, said those in violation reportedly have been notified of the infringement and that "preliminary negotiations are continuing with several carriers and manufacturers to reach licensing agreements. The market will ultimately determine the fate of those companies whose improvements on [Peter] Michaels’ product may result in the company seeking injunctive relief against future sales."
"The utilization by market leaders dedicating billions in vast resources developed my product at record speed," said Peter Michaels, President of Hop-on, in a written statement. "The visual appearance test set forth in other recent court decisions could prove evidence my design reaped millions for those who infringed. Based on almost three years of extensive research, it appears Hop-on’s design predates all existing patents and will finally allow shareholders of THIS company to reap the benefits of their invention. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders to ensure appropriate returns on their significant investment of our new designs. This patent reflects the recognition our designs deserve and enables protection of our intellectual property portfolio.”
InformationWeek published an interview with Michaels yesterday regarding his claimed patents in which he said "I don’t want to say they blatantly copied my design, but it’s kind of funny that their phones look exactly like mine."