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Understanding Design Patents

A design patent is a type of intellectual property protection that covers the unique visual ornamental characteristics of a product. Unlike utility patents that protect the way an article is used and works, a design patent protects only the appearance of the article.

A design patent doesn’t protect the structural or functional features of a product. Instead, it protects the unique aesthetics of the article, the elements that contribute to its look and feel. Remember, the drawings of a design patent, which adhere to specific rules, define the scope of patent protection concerning the appearance of the invention.

The Scope of a Design Patent

 

The U.S. patent laws provide for the granting of design patents to any person who “has invented any new and non-obvious ornamental design for an article of manufacture”. The design patent protects only the appearance (look) of an article. A design patent does not protect the structural or functional features. The proceedings relating to granting of design patents are very similar to those relating to other patents. A design patent issued prior to May 13, 2015 has a term of 14 years from grant, and no fees are necessary to maintain a design patent in force. Effective May 13, 2015, the patent term has been revised to 15 years from the date of patent grant for design patents issuing from both national (U.S.) design applications and international design applications designating the United States. No fees are necessary to maintain a design patent in force. If on examination it is determined that an applicant is entitled to a design patent under the law, a notice of allowance will be sent to the applicant or applicant’s attorney, or agent, calling for the payment of an issue fee. The drawing of the design patent conforms to the same rules as other drawings, but no reference characters are allowed and the drawing should clearly depict the appearance. The drawings define the scope of patent protection as to appearance of the invention.

The following are the crucial components that must be part of your application.

The written document is the heart of the patent application. It concludes with claims that specifically and distinctly point out the novel aspect of your invention.

If your design patent application is related to or based on a previously filed application, include a reference to the prior application.

This section provides a concise explanation of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in the article.

Unlike a utility patent, a design patent only has one claim. This claim defines the design which the applicant wishes to patent.

These are the most critical part of a design patent application. They must clearly show all visual features of the design. Remember, in design patents, the drawings define the scope of the protection.

This is a formal statement made by the inventor asserting that he/she believes themselves to be the original inventor or discoverer of the design.

 

Frequently asked Questions about Design patents

The U.S. patent laws provide for the granting of design patents to any person who has invented a new and non-obvious ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

A design patent issued before May 13, 2015, has a term of 14 years from the grant. However, for design patents issued from May 13, 2015, the patent term has been revised to 15 years from the date of patent grant. This applies to design patents issuing from both national (U.S.) design applications and international design applications designating the United States. No fees are necessary to maintain a design patent in force.

Similar to other patent types, a design patent application undergoes an examination process. If an applicant is found to be entitled to a design patent under the law, a notice of allowance will be sent, calling for the payment of an issue fee.

The drawing of the design patent adheres to the same rules as other patent drawings, but no reference characters are allowed. These drawings should clearly depict the appearance of the invention as they define the scope of the patent protection regarding the appearance of the invention.

A design patent primarily protects the unique visual ornamental characteristics of an article of manufacture. Unlike utility patents, it doesn’t cover the functional or structural aspects of a product. In simpler terms, a design patent protects the way a product looks, not the way it works or is used.

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