A utility patent protects the structural and functional aspects of a new or improved product or system, and is the most popular type of patent. A design patent, on the other hand, covers the unique appearance of an item. A design patent encompasses such things as a specific product shape, color arrangement, or surface ornamentation. For example, the shape of a laptop or flower vase may be protected by a design patent. If you’ve recently purchased headphones, you may have noticed that they come in a stylish case with a unique fabric pattern. The shape of the container and the pattern of the fabric may be the subject of design patents.
The content of the two types of patents also differs. A design patent consists primarily of drawings and little text other than brief descriptions of each drawing orientation and explanations of the drawing conventions used. A utility patent, on the other hand, regularly includes numerous columns of text that describe the various embodiments of an invention, and ends with one or more claims that define the scope of the invention. A design patent has only one claim – a brief characterization of the illustrated device, such as “The ornamental design of a medical device as illustrated and described”.
As with a utility patent, a design patent may cover only a part or a subset, rather than the device as a whole.
A design patent remains in effect for a period different from that of a utility patent. A design patent is in effect for 15 years from the date it is granted as a patent. A utility patent has a term of 20 years (with a few exceptions) from the date of filing.
Once a design patent is issued, no further action is required to keep the design patent in effect. In contrast, to maintain a utility patent in force, maintenance fees must be paid three times to the US Patent and Trademark Office. These fees are due 4 years, 8 years and 12 years after the date of issue. Failure to pay maintenance fees will void the utility patent.
Since the differences between utility and design patents can play a huge role in the success of your business, diversifying your intellectual property investment with design protection can be a strategic decision worth considering. ‘to be taken.