- Overview Article: “Design Patents”
Design patents protect ornamental designs. For example, design patents have been used to protect novel fonts, soda bottle shapes, and user interface designs.
What is protected by a design patent? Unlike utility patents, design patents protect ornamental or decorative features of new products, rather than functional features. For example, a design patent may protect the unique design, shape, or form of a mobile device, while a utility patent may protect the functions of novel hardware in the mobile device. In this way, design patents are conceptually similar to copyrights and trademarks. Many items protected under U.S. copyright law and U.S. trademark law can also be protected by design patents.
The design patent application process. A designer can apply for a design patent by filing an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The application should include at least one drawing that shows the design, but most applications include multiple drawings showing different aspects or perspectives of the design. If the USPTO determines that the design is novel and adequately shown in the application, the USPTO will issue the design patent to the designer. It typically takes about 1 year for a design application to issue into a patent.
The benefits of a design patent. A design patent application is often less costly to prepare and is obtainable in less time than a utility application, yet offers powerful enforcement options. The designer can use the issued design patent to prevent others from copying the patented design. If a competitor starts selling a product with the same or similar design, the designer can assert the design patent in court. The court may then order the competitor to stop selling the competing product, and may also order the competitor to give the money earned by selling the competing product to the designer.
Design patents can effectively prevent competitors from copying your designs. Please contact us if you are interested in applying for a design patent, or asserting your design patent against a competitor.
- Quick Reference Guide for a Design Patent Application
To be patentable, a design must be “primarily ornamental.” Merely a by-product of functional or mechanical considerations fails the ornamentality requirement.
Elements of a Design Patent Application.
A design patent application should include:
- a preamble, title of the design and a brief description of the nature and intended use of the article in which the design is embodied
- a description of the figure(s) of the drawing
- a feature description (optional)
- a single claim
- drawings or photographs of all claimed features
- an oath or declaration executed by each inventor
The drawings constitute the majority of a design application. Every design patent application must include either a drawing or a black and white photograph of the claimed design. The drawing or photograph constitutes the entire visual disclosure of the claim. Black and white photographs and ink drawings must NOT be combined in a formal submission of the visual disclosure of the claimed design.
Color drawings or photographs are generally not accepted. However, the applicant may petition for acceptance of color drawings of photographs. Such a petition will be granted if the applicant can show that the color drawings or photographs are necessary.
Tips for Drawings in Design Applications
Use surface shading to show the curvature of a design:
Use oblique line shading to show transparent materials:
Note that claimed elements visible behind transparent surfaces should be shown in light full lines, and not in broken lines.
Broken lines should be used to show the environment and boundaries that do not form any part of the claimed design. For example: