Design Patent Applications

Utility Patent v. Design Patent

Utility patents protect the structural and functional features of an invention. Utility patents are the most common patents. If the important characteristics of your invention are the purpose your invention serves and how your invention accomplishes this purpose, then a utility patent provides the desired protection. Read more about utility patent applications here.

Design patents protect ornamental design of the invention. Design patents do not protect functional features of inventions. Only the appearance of the invention is protected. If the appearance of your invention is its most important characteristic, then design patent protection is appropriate.

Inventions For Which Design Patent Applications Should Be Considered

Design patents are useful for protecting any object which has novel, nonobvious ornamental features. Examples include:

• Jewelry and components of jewelry, for example, the hands, dial, case, or bracelet of a watch

• Fashion accessories such as handbags and purses

• Wearable items such as clothing, shoes, or hats

• Decorative items

• Appliances and appliance components which are placed in visible locations where their appearance is important

• Visible components of vehicles

• Toys and components of games

• Devices and objects having a unique appearance which could potentially become known to consumers as an indicator that you are the source of that device or object. Expressed differently, devices and objects for which trade dress protection is anticipated in the future, but which have not yet become known.

• Any useful object having an original, nonobvious ornamental design.

Preparation of a Design Patent Application

Design patent applications consist primarily of professionally prepared drawings of the invention to be protected. These drawings must show every feature of the invention which the applicant regards as their invention. The text of the application is simply a description of the drawings and a claim to the ornamental design for the device shown in the drawings.

On the most basic level, a single object will often be shown using a pair of opposing three dimensional views as well as six two dimensional views showing every side of the object. However, inventions with moving parts and/or with multiple components will require additional views. Depending on the shape of an object, showing hidden portions of the object may be necessary in order to properly show the details of all of the unique visible portions of an object.

Since the drawings form the claim of a design patent, care must be taken to depict portions of the drawings which are not necessary to the invention in broken lines, so that these portions of the drawing do not unnecessarily limit the scope of the claim.

In order to avoid problems during prosecution of the design patent application, care must be taken to ensure that the drawings are consistent with each other. My draftsman uses solid modeling to prepare design patent drawings in order to ensure complete consistency throughout the drawings.

Design patent applications require careful planning and preparation.  Please contact me to discuss the unique features of your invention.

How Long Does a Design Patent Last?

In the United States, design patents are in force for 15 years from their issue date.

Foreign Design Patent Protection

If foreign design patent protection is desired, then the original US design patent application must be filed prior to public disclosure of the invention. Design patents must be filed in most foreign countries within six months of the original US application filing date in order to claim the benefit of the US filing date. A single application filed in the European Community Intellectual Property Office can provide protection throughout most of Europe. Read more about foreign patent applications here.