China: 一份将错就错的判决?——评GUI外观设计专利侵权第一案

内容精要

  1. 我国现有的外观设计采取整体产品保护原则,意味着载体产品是权利范围的组成部分,极大地限制GUI专利保护的范围。
  2. 司法机关依法办事,但是维护不合理的甚至是错误的规则体系,只能是一种将错就错。
  3. GUI外观专利保护途径不顺,权利人从其他知识产权法律途径寻求法律保护也是难上加难。
  4. 只有合理的立法与公正的司法同行不悖才能保护我国软件产业的健康发展。

中国GUI外观设计专利侵权第一案,历时一年又七个月后,一审判决终于落下帷幕。

2016年5月,原告北京奇虎科技有限公司与奇智软件(北京)有限公司起诉北京江民新科技术有限公司侵犯其"带图形用户界面的电脑"外观设计专利权,诉请停止侵权,并赔偿损失500万元,一审判决以"电脑"产品对涉案专利保护范围有限定作用,被诉行为系向用户提供软件产品,二者不属于相同和近似种类产品,从而认定直接侵权和间接侵权均不成立,驳回原告请求。

先天不足:现行法对GUI保护的缺陷

图形用户界面(Graphical User Interface,简称GUI,又称图形用户接口)即以图形方式显示的计算机用户操作界面。自1992年美国开世界之先河,对其实行单独保护以来,欧洲、日本、韩国、台湾地区等先后仿效,2014年5月,中国开放GUI外观设计专利申请,其申请量一度井喷。

然而,中国的GUI外观专利,自出生以来,就有从娘胎里带来的毛病。

2014年3月,为适应发展需要,国家知识产权局颁布第六十八号令对原《专利审查指南》进行修订,删除了原第一部分第三章中"产品的图案应当是固定的、可见的,而不应是时有时无的或者需要在特定的条件下才能看见的。",同时新增一段:"就包括图形用户界面的产品外观设计而言,应当提交整体产品外观设计视图。图形用户界面为动态图案的,申请人应当至少提交一个状态的上述整体产品外观设计视图......。

原《专利审查指南2010》中规定"产品不能分割的或者不能单独出售且不能单独使用的局部设计,例如袜根、帽檐、杯把等"不能授予外设设计专利的规定仍然保留,由此奠定了在现行专利法下,实行整体产品保护,但不保护局部产品外观设计的保护制度。

但放眼全球,在实行GUI保护的国家中,无论是美国、欧盟、韩国还是我国台湾地区,均实行的是局部外观设计保护, 即规定在申请图样中,实线表示想保护的部位, 虚线表示非保护部分。如美国《专利审查指南》中同时指明:"在外观设计申请中,需要保护的客体是适用在工业产品上的外观设计,而不是工业产品本身。

《美国专利法》第171条不是指工业产品的外观设计(design of an article),而是适用在工业产品上的外观设计(design for an article)"。欧盟允许申请人在申请案中仅仅揭露GUI或ICON的设计,并不强制申请人在图片中以实线或虚线的形式表示 GUI 及 ICON 的设计所实施之计算机屏幕或其他显示面板,也不需要在图片说明中表明放弃虚线部分的保护。

众所周知,GUI专利的核心技术在于界面设计本身,本身属于软件类产品,鉴于软件在不同硬件产品之间的可移植性和兼容性,其真正要保护的内容其实与硬件载体并无关联,但我国现有的外观设计采用整体产品保护原则,意味着载体产品是权利范围的组成部分,其必然会极大地限制专利保护的范围,祸根由此埋下。

将错就错:法官的选择

因为沿袭旧有的规则和思维,在外观设计专利权申请和获取环节,硬是把GUI专利这个新生事物带上了"有形产品"的镣铐, 已经是一个欠缺思考的决定。所以众首翘盼在司法环节可以把GUI专利从镣铐中解放出来,让其能够真正起到保护创新,鼓励创作的积极作用,然而我们失望了。

或许从裁判者的角度和司法谨慎的原则出发,既然现有的外观设计申请制度如此,在现有的法律框架内"依法"进行裁判, 顺理成章,所以判决书中强调:"国家知识产权局虽然在第68号令中引入"包括图形用户界面的产品外观设计",但该规定中的具体内容均是在现有外观设计专利框架下做的适应性调整,而非针对此类外观设计设立独立于现有制度的一整套规则"。并按照司法解释的规定,"在与外观设计专利产品相同或者相近似设计的,人民法院应当认定被诉侵权设计落入专利法第五十九条第二款规定的外观设计专利权的保护范围",既然电脑与软件属于不同产品分类,自然不构成侵权。

司法机关依法办事,似乎无懈可击,毕竟司法需要以立法为基础,但是维护不合理的甚至是错误的规则体系,无论是出于无奈还是机械地行使裁判权,从结果来看,只能是一种将错就错。

救济无门:权利人的无奈

判决的作出,反响最大的除了本案原告外,还有数千件GUI外观设计专利的权利人, 因为判决如果最终生效,将对他们的权益产生重大的不利影响:

选择用GUI外观专利保护,权利人付出了物质和法益的代价。

或许有人会说,即便专利的途径走不通,权利人还可以选择著作权,知名商品的包装装潢,甚至商标法等来进行保护,法律并没有完全阻断权利人的救济途径,然而事实果真如此吗?

首先,著作权是自动产生无须注册,经济简便,但为什么还选择专利保护,也是看中了专利侵权无需考虑著作权所需的创作日期证据以及不用担心出现著作权中各自"独立创作"之类的问题,所以才费时费钱申请专利。

其次,一旦申请并获得专利权,由于专利权最长保护期限只有10年,只要专利权失效,公众基于信赖利益,有权使用进入共有领域的外观专利,尽管还存在保护期限更长的著作权,但依照目前的普遍认识和此前的生效判决,权利人已经不能再基于著作权进行权利主张了(见谢新林诉叶根木、海宁市明扬食品有限公司著作权侵权纠纷案),所以专利权人选择专利权保护是存在牺牲其重大的法益为代价的。

此外,知名商标的包装装潢在保护门槛上需要通过使用建立起一定的知名度,由于软件产品具有更新换代频繁的特性,大部分产品很难具备该前提条件。商标注册LOGO需要具备显著性,绝大多数GUI外观设计根本无法满足条件。

一旦本判决生效,物质损失不说,还限制了本来应该有的著作权保护途径,其他途径还不给力,专利权人岂不是"赔了夫人又折兵",哭诉无门?

并非所有可获得专利保护的GUI均能获得著作权,著作权要求基本的独创性,但外观专利只要求不属于现有设计,并与现有设计存在明显区别即可,二者在法律内涵上是存在差异的。因此理论上就存在某些GUI设计在著作权方面因缺乏独创性无法得到保护,申请了外观设计专利权,又囿于硬件产品的限制,无法形成有效的保护,权利成了废纸一张。

在目前的计算机服务领域,软硬件分离经营是大势所趋,按照裁判的逻辑,一方只是在软件中使用相关设计,即不构成直接侵权也不构成间接侵权,作为硬件产品提供商完全可以不预装软件,而是通过使用者个体安装的方式成功地避开侵权问题,软件产品开发者更加肆无忌惮,四处抄袭,最后损害的还是整个软件产业的发展。

路在何方:立法司法齐心协力

作为从业者,本来期待看到一份有突破陈规、有前瞻性的判决,并仔细体味和欣赏判决确定的GUI专利特有的侵权判定标准,尤其是对于GUI专利中多点触控的动态设计如何进行比对等具有创新性的观点,很可惜本案根本无需进入这个层面。但我们也知道,法律的进展总是需要耐心和时机,完全把所有的重担都让裁判者来承担也不公平。

面对判决,一方面我们能够理解作为裁判者的不易和选择的艰难;一方面同样感慨在最初做规则设计时如果能够预想一下侵权判断的后果,顺应保护对象的特性,汲取国外立法例的经验可能就避免了今天这样的尴尬。但我们也理解,凡事都有一个演化的过程,不可能一蹴而就。

其实,早在2015年4月1日发布的《专利法修改草案(征求意见稿)》将《专利法》第二条第四款:"外观设计,是指对产品的形状、图案或者其结合以及色彩与形状、图案的结合所做出的富有美感并适用于工业应用的新设计。" 修改为:"外观设计,是指对产品的整体或者局部的形状、图案或者其结合以及色彩与形状、图案的结合所做出的富有美感并适用于工业应用的新设计。"

外观专利所保护的客体不再仅仅局限于整体产品,而将延及到产品的局部。说明立法者早就意识到这个问题,只是限于立法程序的限制,不能马上生效。

以目前的立法趋势分析,我们坚信保护局部外观设计将成为必然。将来对于GUI外观专利终究将可以以图形用户界面本身作为保护客体,即使硬件产品的分类不同,基于GUI外观专利本意是保护图形用户界面设计,也不应影响构成侵权判断。或者将来图形用户界面本身也可构成一个单独的分类。总之,法律终究将依照保护对象的特点,回归推动行业发展和鼓励创作的本意,采取合理、可行的立法体例来保护我国软件产业的健康发展。

当然,本案尚在一审,如果本案还有二审,且司法层面能够有突破性的举措,将会更加鼓舞人心吧!

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