Traffix Devices v. Marketing Displays (523 U.S. 23, 2001 March 20)

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[FUNCTIONAL] {1} In light of this past ruling — a ruling procured at MDI's own insistence — it must be concluded the products here at issue would have been covered by the claims of the expired patents. The rationale for the rule that the disclosure of a feature in the claims of a utility patent constitutes strong evidence of functionality is well illustrated in this case.

[FUNCTIONAL] {2} As explained in Qualitex, supra, and Inwood, supra, a feature is also functional when it is essential to the use or purpose of the device or when it affects the cost or quality of the device. The Qualitex decision did not purport to displace this traditional rule. Instead, it quoted the rule as Inwood had set it forth. ... Whether a utility patent has expired or there has been no utility patent at all, a product design which has a particular appearance may be functional because it is "essential to the use or purpose of the article" or "affects the cost or quality of the article." Inwood, 456 U.S., at 850, n. 10.

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