We touched on utility patents in an earlier post, so let’s now talk about design patents. While utility patents generally protect the way an article is used, i.e., its function, design patents protect the way an article looks. A single invention may be protectable with both a utility and a design patent. Moreover, a product that is protectable by design patent may also be further protectable by trademark or trade dress registration.
A few differences between utility and design patents are as follows:
Design patents often issue more quickly and more frequently than utility patents. With that said, because design patents protect the ornamental appearance of an article, its scope of protection is seen to be more limited than utility patents. As such, if an invention is eligible for both utility and design protection, it is often ideal to seek both types of patent protection.
Don't limit yourself to a Design Patent
A product that is protectable by design patent may also be eligible for protection by trademark and/or trade dress if the look of the product is distinctive and is able to identify the source of the product. As such, design patents can be a useful tool to bolster protection provided by a utility patent or trademark/trade dress registration. A basic example of a product being protectable by both design patent and trademark/trade dress is Apple’s iPhone. Apple owns a design patent on its iPhone for its unique look. A consumer can also readily recognize an iPhone as an Apple product (without seeing the Apple logo), so the look of the product is also functioning as trade dress, i.e., indicating the source of the good. Because each case is unique, it is recommended that you consult with your IP attorney to determine which types of IP protection your product(s) may be eligible for.
International Protection for Design Patents
International design protection is also available, and is sometimes called “registration of industrial design” or simply “design registration.” These international applications may need to be filed within 6 months of filing of the US design patent application, if a claim of priority to the earlier application is desired.
Patents Making Your Head Spin?
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Author: Aimee Haynes
I motivate, I blog, I listen, I give advice, I help, I create, I work with others, I stand my ground when needed, and I am always open to new ideas. In addition to the qualities that define me most, I'm also a Corporate Law attorney working with entrepreneurs, creatives, and small businesses to help them achieve success..