DESIGN PATENTS

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.