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We recently decided to accept John Oliver’s challenge to make oral arguments more fun by remixing them with his canine judiciary footage. The resulting video uses audio clips from the oral argument in MRC Innovations v. Hunter Manufacturing (the dog jersey design case). We hope you’ll enjoy - or forgive us for - our attempt at humor.

MRC Innovations v. Hunter Mfg.
In MRC Innovations v. Hunter Mfg., a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had to decide whether to uphold a lower court’s decision to invalidate a two design patents covering football and baseball jerseys for dogs.  The lower court had ruled that the design patents should be held invalid because they would have been obvious to a designer of ordinary skill at the time they were created in view of the existing “prior art.”

To decide whether a design would have been obvious in view of a set of prior art designs, a court first determines whether there is another prior art reference that is “basically the same” as the granted design patent. Such a reference is commonly called a Rosen reference (the name of the case in which this test was famously set out). If there is no Rosen reference, the inquiry ends - and the design patent is held not invalid.

You can use the images below to draw your own conclusions about whether any of the prior art references should qualify as Rosen references for either the patented football or baseball jerseys. Click on either patented jersey below to compare it to its prior art references.
Football Jersey
Baseball Jersey

Once the court has identified a Rosen reference, it may then determine whether an “ordinary designer” would have combined that reference with others to arrive at a design having the same overall visual impression as the patented design. If the answer is yes, the design patent is held invalid. If the answer is no, the obviousness challenge fails. Again, you can use the images to determine how you would have decided the obviousness question.

Football Jersey
Baseball Jersey

These are the core issues being debated in the oral argument depicted in the dog video. If you’d like to listen to the real oral argument in its entirety, you can access it from the sample database’s table

Ultimately, how do you think the court ruled?

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