Everything You Need to Know About Design Patents

By  //  July 26, 2019

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You might think the most challenging parts of birthing a design are the depths of your creativity, artistry, and the hard work it takes to create something unique and novel. If you thought that, you would be right. Mostly.

You might think the most challenging parts of birthing a design are the depths of your creativity, artistry, and the hard work it takes to create something unique and novel. If you thought that, you would be right. Mostly.

Designing anything, whether it be the shape of a soda bottle, emoji, or jewelry, necessitates securing a certain type of protection.

This protection is not meant to preserve the actual item you create, but the competitive edge your item has over others. In short, this means that another entity cannot borrow from your ideas to improve on theirs.

And, if your design product is granted this protection, it remains yours and yours alone for several years.

This protection is called a design patent.

What is a Patent?

A patent grants exclusivity and rights to designs and inventions that are new, either in function or process. Obtaining a patent involves providing rigorous proof of why your item is worthy of one.

The process also requires that information regarding the product’s technical information be made public. 

Once a patent is secured, the owner of said patent can sell their rights or legally permit others to use them. Additional regulations speak to how long patents last and what happens after patent owners die.

Types of Patents

There are three types of patents one can apply for, Utility, Plant, and Design.

Utility

A utility patent protects unique processes and inventions. If you’ve developed an idea or concept that is unique (there cannot be other similar items already patented) and novel (it has to be something that’s not obvious to everyone), this is the type of patent you require. Utility patents can cover machines, chemicals, devices, and new processes. 

Plant

New hybrid breeds of plant life can be patented under a plant patent. To qualify, the plant must be able to reproduce asexually or via a method without seeds.

Design

Design patents, which are the subject of this text, do not cover the functionality or the novelty of the subject matter, but rather the aesthetics of it.

What You Need to Know About Design Patents

As was mentioned in the previous section, design patents protect the physical appearance of your product. Why would someone patent a design? What if you developed a revolutionary new laptop computer that used unique hardware to make it outperform all other devices of its kind?

You’d want to make certain that everything that made your computer special was protected with a utility patent. So, now no one can legally copy your computer exactly and sell it.

But what if an unscrupulous business put their inferior hardware in a laptop shell that closely resembled your product and started selling it. Unknowledgable buyers might mistakenly buy their product thinking it was yours.

For this reason, many individuals and companies seeking utility patents also want design patents. The Coca Cola bottle is another example of a famous and rather important design patent.

While their logo is trademarked, the shape and color of their glass bottle is so distinctive that another company copying it could severely damage the brand.

In order for your design patent to be accepted, you must show that it is unique and novel. A distinctively shaped bottle can be patented, but a brown cardboard box probably couldn’t.

Seek the Advice of a Design Patent Attorney

The process for applying for any type of patent can be tedious and lengthy. The Patent Professor® of Florida recommends that you hire an attorney before discussing or showing your design to outside parties.

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