If your business designs and manufactures unique consumer products, you are probably already familiar with patents. You might even have a utility patent for one or more of your products. But you might not be familiar with design patents.
Utility patents vs. design patents
Utility patents focus on what makes your product work, that is, the functional or useful aspects of your product. What is the product for and how is it used? Think of function and use as “utility” in “utility patent”.
Design patents, on the other hand, focus on the “ornamental” or “non-functional” aspects of your product. What does the product look like and does its appearance contribute to its usefulness? If the answer to this last question is “no” and you think there is something new and important about the appearance of your product, then you should consider applying for a design patent.
Design patents are important to the success of your business. The selling point of many products is the appeal of the product to the consumer. Beauty may only be superficial, but beauty still persuades many consumers to make a purchase. Because there is a great deal of product differentiation in the visual appeal of the product, companies spend a lot of time and money thinking about how a product will appear on the shelves alongside competing products. A design patent can help protect that investment and ensure that non-functional appearance factors are not copied or violated by competitors.
Apply for a design patent
The path to apply for a design patent is similar to the path to apply for a utility patent. Applications typically require multiple illustrations that represent your idea from multiple angles. There are certain rules for illustrations, many of which may appear obscure. Check out the USPTO Patent Application Guide or send us a message to set up a more in-depth discussion of the application process.
If your design patent application is ultimately authorized by the USPTO, the design patent will be valid for fifteen years from the date of issue and is not subject to maintenance fees.