Unlike utility patents, design patents focus specifically on the way that something looks and how it appears visually. Unlike plant patents, design patents can cover the outward appearance of any newly invented or discovered object, machine or chemical composition. Design patents are unique in that they are the only type of legal protection that deals exclusively with the look and façade of a certain article. They can be extremely useful when you have come up with a different and non-obvious way to design an existing or new object. Design patents must necessarily only cover aesthetics that have never before been seen, known of or created. They must differ enough from what is already in existence to warrant legal protection of their very own. Whether you already have a design patent or are considering applying for one, here are all the things you need to know about these types of patents.
What Is a Design Patent and What Does It Cover?
A design includes all the visual elements of a manufactured item, including the aesthetic value that is inherent in its makeup as well as any visual ornaments that are added on to embellish it. A design patent may cover all of these characteristics, including any elements of shape, color, material, form, architecture, decoration, texture and pattern that may be present. Designs cannot stand alone as distinctive entities that are separated from the articles that they belong to, so design patents must go hand in hand with a specific object or article of manufacture.
What a design patent does not cover are any functions or structural features of an article. They do not deal with how an object works, what processes are involved with its function, what ideas or concepts are supportive of it or why it does what it does. Design patents are exclusive in that they only cover the visual and outward appearance of an article, and nothing else. Generally, design patents must also be widely considered a useful improvement over what is already out there. They must be judged to be completely novel and different from pre-existing designs.
Sometimes it may be difficult to tell whether your invention is better suited to a utility patent, a design patent or both. In cases like these, in which the functionality of something is intimately connected to the way it looks, it is advisable to consult an attorney or other legal professional who specializes in patent law. They will be able to help you determine what category or categories of patents you should apply for and why.
How Do I Apply for a Design Patent?
Applying for a design patent is a process no different from applying for any other kind of patent, except that it involves detailed drawings or visual evidence of the design that you wish to protect. You may choose to apply for a design patent either online or by mail, depending on your timeline and what form your documentation is in. There are a number of different elements that you will need to include in your application, namely a legal oath, detailed descriptions of the design, visual documentation and application fees. Check out the exact process of application by consulting with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Specialized patent artists can assist you in mocking up images that will be acceptable to the officials who will be looking over your claim.
Once your patent has been granted, it will be effective for 14 years without any maintenance fees. As the design owner, you will then have the legal right to apply this patented design to objects and articles that you may manufacture and distribute. Meanwhile, if another party violates your patent by copying, stealing or duplicating your design idea, you will have the legal right to take action against them.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.