August 25, 2021

What You Need to Know About, and Why You Need, Design Patents

If your company designs and manufactures unique consumer products, then you likely already know about patents. You might even have a utility patent for one or more of your products. But you may not know about design patents.

Utility Patents vs. Design Patents

Utility patents focus on what makes your product tick, meaning the functional or useful aspects of your product. What does the product do and how is it used? Think of function and use as the “utility” in “utility patent.”

Design patents, in contrast, focus on the “ornamental” or “non-functional” aspects of your product. What does the product look like, and does the appearance contribute to its usefulness? If the answer to the latter question is “no,” and you believe that there is something novel and important about the appearance of your product, then you should consider applying for a design patent. 

Design patents are important to your company’s success. The selling point of many products is the product’s appeal to the consumer’s eye. Beauty may be only skin deep, but beauty still persuades many a consumer to make a purchase. Because a great deal of product differentiation exists in the eye appeal of the product, companies spend a lot of time and money thinking about how a product will look on the shelf alongside competing products. A design patent can help protect that investment and ensure non-functional appearance factors are not copied or infringed by competitors.

Applying for a Design Patent

The path to apply for a design patent is similar to the path to applying for a utility patent. Applications typically require multiple illustrations that represent your idea from multiple perspectives. There are certain rules for the illustrations, of which many may seem arcane. Check out the USPTO Patent Application Guide or send us a message to set up a more in-depth discussion about the application process. 

If your design patent application is ultimately allowed by the USPTO, the design patent will be valid for a term of fifteen years from the date of grant and is not subject to maintenance fees.

If you believe that the appearance of your product is something worth protecting, do not hesitate to reach out to Harness IP for our renowned design patent protection services and expertise.