utility patent : CAFC Alert

BD Stumbles on the Fine Functionality Line between Patents and Trademarks

Michael Caridi | May 2, 2012

In Re Becton, Dickinson and Company

April 12, 2012

Panel:  Bryson, Clevenger, and Linn. Opinion by Clevenger.  Dissent by Linn.

Summary

BD appealed a decision of the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) that a requested trademark registration for a design of a closure cap for blood collection tubes could not be trademarked because the design is functional.  The CAFC affirmed the TTAB ruling relying heavily on prior BD utility patents and advertisements as evidencing functionality.   Attempting to convert functional aspects into a trademark due to acquired secondary meaning will not hold. A company looking to protect a product across multiple forms of intellectual property needs to clearly identify, from the advent of seeking protection, which aspects are considered functional and which are for design purposes.  The designation of function and design should be maintained in all ways the product is protected and promoted.


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