Design Patents

Design Patents are one of three basic, general exclusive intellectual property rights granted to innovators and inventors by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Design patents are granted as a way to protect original designs from unlawful use, market, or reproduction. Let us say you design an intricate piece of jewelry or the country’s most comfortable piece of furniture. What stops your competition from reproducing your designs and ripping you off?

Basically, the appearance of an item is its design. Designs can come in every shape, size, color, and/or complexity. Design patents protect the appearance of these items, objects, or devices so that no one else can profit from your hard work and ingenuity. They are not concerned with the functional or structural features, only the aesthetic design.

Design patents cover all kinds of ornamental design inventions including jewelry, furniture, toys, and automobile parts like fenders and rims. They are not limited to tangible objects like chairs and desks. Computer images, fonts, and icons can also be filed and registered as designs.

Basic design patents are granted for fourteen (14) years and cannot be renewed. This means that from the day you file and register your design, you will have exclusive rights to your design for fourteen (14) years. After fourteen (14) years, the exclusivity right expires.

Designs also conform to the same general set of rules and regulations as utility and plant patents. When drafting the drawing part of the patent application, applicants must illustrate the ornamental design without reference to any external device or function. Only the ornamental design can be shown in the application.

Topics related to this issue include:

General Patent – Declaration that gives an inventor the exclusive rights to his or her invention.
Trademark – The name, motto, symbol, logo, slogan, jingle, color scheme, or brand that gives a certain product recognition and identity.
Copyright – A general protection similar to trademarks for literary works, compositions, music, architectural designs, or artistic work.
Intellectual Property – The innovative and creative proprietary assets of a company protected by exclusive rights, like copyrights, trademarks, patent, etc.