If you’ve taken the time, effort, and brain power to design something, the first thing you need to do is protect your design. A design patent does just that in that it provides the first line of defense against infringement.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has defined the design of an object to be the visual characteristics or aspects displayed by the object. A design patent is a form of intellectual property protection which protects all your hard design work.
A design patent allows an inventor to protect the original shape and the ornamental design of an article or product, including but not limited to the product’s configuration, shape, and surface ornamentation. This applies to any unique form or otherwise perceivable design features of an object. The design must be an inseparable component, should be purely ornamental, and can’t affect function in order for it to be eligible for a patent.
Products Eligible for Design Patents
Examples of products that may have protectable ornamental or design features:
- Exercise equipment
- Golf putter head designs
- Automotive accessories
- Household gadgets
- Computer Icons
- Automobile and Motorcycle Wheels
Design patents are limited to the appearance of the product and it should be noted that this form of patent does not cover structural or utilitarian features.
Basic Criteria for Design Patent Eligibility
Determining if an invention can be protected under a design patent is determined by certain eligibility:
- The design must be industrial. Therefore, a piece of art such as a painting or sculpture is not eligible for design patent protection because it is not separable from a useful object.
- The design must not be dictated by the function of the article. That is, if the design specifically affects the way the article works, that design would not be separable from function and would not be eligible for design patent protection. In this case, the article may be eligible for a utility patent.
- The article must be new in the sense that no single, identical design exists in the prior art, it must satisfy the ornamental standards, and it must be original to the inventor or inventors seeking protection.
- Design patents cannot be obtained for ornamental features that are not visible when the product is in use.
- The article must also be a product of aesthetic skill and artistic conception. For example, one would have difficulty obtaining a design patent for a nail gun, as it would generally not have aesthetic appeal.
A design patent, like all patents, is a right to exclude. This means that once an owner has obtained a design patent, he or she has the legal right to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing articles that have that design without permission. The design patent gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, or selling a product that resembles the patented product in any way that an “ordinary observer” might purchase the infringing article, thinking it was the patented product due to the close resemblance. In this instance, an “ordinary observer” is defined as a retail customer who might not be adept at determining an original design versus the copied design.
Guidelines and Application Process
In order to secure patent protection, it’s crucial to adhere to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and PCT guidelines to receive approval for your patent. Failure to navigate the patent applications process correctly may result in a rejected application or an approved patent that does not fully protect your invention.
Additionally, an object that has a design that is substantially similar to the design claimed in a design patent cannot be made, used, copied or imported into the United States without the permission of the patent holder. Even if the copy is only substantially similar, it still can be found to be infringing upon the original product.
It should be noted that design patents with line drawings cover only the features shown as solid lines. Items shown as dotted lines are not covered.
Design Patent Term
Design patents last for 15 years, measured from the date the design patent is granted.
When we speak about Design Patents, it’s important to discuss Utility Patents. Design patents protect the aesthetic appearance of an invention, but a utility patent protects the functionality of the invention.
An example of this is a door handle. A design patent protects the artistic look of the handle but not the locking mechanism. A utility parent protects the locking mechanism but not the artistic look.
The claims of a utility patent list the elements of the invention and establish the boundaries of patent coverage
Utility patents last for 20 years, measured from the date the utility patent is filed.
Having prepared, filed, and prosecuted patent applications (domestic and foreign), our firm is highly respected for its knowledge and patent prosecution.
Our attorneys have experience in all areas of patents, including:
Reilly Intellectual Property Law Firm
Reilly Intellectual Property Law Firm provides patent services to protect the inventions that change and shape our world. We handle patents, trademarks, copyrights and licensing legal services in Denver. Our experienced attorneys provide strategic guidance, patent counseling and prosecution, new product clearance and licensing, as well as counsel regarding patent enforcement and how to avoid possible infringement issues.
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