Design Patent Laws

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 What Is a Patent?

Inventors need to protect their inventions from unauthorized use and distribution. Patents are issued to inventors to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their inventions in the United States. An inventor receives a patent to protect their invention.

Patents typically exist for twenty years and can be used for any invention in any technology field. Patents are part of international agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO), so member nations of the organization are expected to recognize and enforce legal patents.

Depending on the type of patent, a patent is usually valid for 20, 17, or 14 years from the filing date. Patents are included in the international agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), so WTO member nations are legally obligated to recognize and enforce patents.

The process of obtaining a patent can take a lot of time. Successfully completing an application can take up to five years. The process involves:

  • Filing an application with the USPTO.
  • Paying the required fees.
  • Responding to questions and actions from the USPTO.

Before filing a provisional application, a person anticipating applying for a patent should do a patent search to ensure that their unique and original idea has not already been patented.

Types of Inventions that Can Be Patented

Generally, to receive a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the invention must be new, unique, and generally unobvious.

Depending on the item you wish to patent, there are different types of patents available:

  • Utility Patent: Generally, the invention must be a process or method with a concrete result, a machine, a chemical or biological composition of matter, or an invention improvement. An invention must also be moderately useful to qualify for a utility patent.
  • Design Patent: Generally, the design must be novel, non-obvious, and non-functional.
  • Plant Patent: Plants that you create can be patented. It must be a novel and non-obvious plant. It is not possible to patent naturally occurring substances, laws of nature, ideas, and calculation methods, among other things.

What Is a Design Patent?

A design patent is a special type of patent issued for a manufactured item’s original, new, or unique design. A design patent applies only to an object’s aesthetics or ornamental value based on its design or shape. An ornamental design patent protects an invention or product’s design when it was created for ornamentation.

If the design was created for a product because it worked better, or cost less to make, then a design patent will not protect that product’s design. If the design also serves some sort of practical or mechanical function, then the creator should file a utility patent rather than a design patent. An existing form or ornament cannot be adapted for a design patent.

A design patent application is very similar to a utility patent application, except that the description is usually much shorter. Design patents are usually valid for 14 years from the date of issue and do not require maintenance fees.

What Is the Difference Between a Design Patent and Copyright Protection?

Design patents and copyrights both protect the aesthetic features of products and inventions.

Non-utilitarian creations are protected by copyright. Non-utilitarian creations exist purely for their aesthetic appeal, not for their usefulness. Paintings, songs, books, and sculptures are examples of creations protected by copyright laws.

While copyright does protect utilitarian articles, it only protects the aesthetic features of the article, which can exist independently of the article. An example of this would be using a statue as the base of a lamp or applying a painting to the side of an automobile.

Patents for design protect novel ornamental features of utilitarian objects. Design patents can protect ornamental features when they cannot be separated from the utilitarian object, while copyright protection cannot. As an example, a design patent could protect the look of a computer CPU case, which would not be protected by copyright.

What Is the Process For Obtaining a Design Patent?

A design patent application is much easier to obtain than a utility patent application. The specification is short and follows a simpler format. A design patent can only contain one claim. Design patent drawings are similar to utility patent drawings, but the product’s or invention’s ornamental features are shown instead of its utilitarian features.

The Patent and Trademark Office will send a notice allowing the patent to the applicant’s patent attorney if the application is accepted. For the issuance of a utility patent, an issue fee will be required. The design patent issue fee is only one-third of the utility patent issue fee. A design patent does not require maintenance fees to remain valid.

What Are Some Examples of Design Patents?

Over the decades, some very iconic American items and products have been granted design patents. For example, Coca-Cola’s first glass bottle was awarded a design product award for its unique shape. Also, the Statue of Liberty received a design patent, which can be applied to the production of miniature models.

Other examples of items or objects that are commonly registered under design patent laws include:

  • Unique or new typing fonts
  • Computer icons
  • Badges and flags
  • Designs connected with architecture

What Is “Design Patent Infringement?”

Upon registration, a design patent cannot be used without the owner’s permission. Design patent infringement is similar to other types of patent infringement and can lead to lawsuits or a court order instructing the defendant to cease the use of the design.

Design infringement rules don’t just apply to identical designs but also to designs that are “substantially similar.” As a result, design patents can be a powerful tool for protecting a person’s interests in their designs.

How Can I Get a Patent for My Invention?

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives applications for patents and makes patent determinations. An inventor must submit an application to the Patent and Trademark Office and attach specific drawings and a plan of the proposed invention. The inventor must also include a fee. Invention plans must follow a very rigid and specific format. After the application is reviewed, the Patent and Trademark Office will usually question the applicant as to any objections the office may have.

Since September 2011, exclusive rights will be granted to the inventor who filed the patent first. In the past, patent protection was granted to those who invented the technology or product first.

Can I Transfer My Patent To A Family Member or Business Partner?

Yes. Even though the Federal Constitution gives Congress the power to grant exclusive rights to inventors, the current federal code allows patents to be sold, licensed, mortgaged, transferred, or abandoned.

Patent Infringement

Patent infringement occurs when another party uses your invention or an invention with elements similar to yours. Patent infringement is demonstrated by comparing the patent’s claims and elements with the elements of the suspect device or invention. Infringement occurs if they match. Patents can be enforced in federal court by inventors.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with a Design Patent?

In most cases, people hire an experienced U.S. patent attorney who knows what language to use for the patent application and how to value the invention’s innovative aspects. Additionally, patent deadlines and regulations are quite detailed and strict, so a patent lawyer will help you meet all the requirements and deadlines.

Having a design patent can help a person protect their valuable creations. If you need help securing a design patent, you may wish to contact an experienced U.S. patent lawyer in your area.

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