As of this writing, the number of design patent applications remains within historical norms. However, in 2019, the USPTO received only 46,847 patent applications, a mere seven percent of total patent applications.
A business’ most accessible resource for design patent applications would be a patent lawyer NY. A patent lawyer Brooklyn NY is the only legal professional capable of handling the complex procedures of the USPTO and their requirements for a robust design patent.
Design patents have been the most accessible patent type to obtain. The traditional belief was that if something was easy to obtain, it was likely not that valuable to possess in the first place.
This belief (and reality) has been upended in recent years. However, as previously mentioned, not nearly enough businesses and individuals are working with a design patent attorney New York and applying for design patents. There is a noticeable increase in the number of applications, but the trend is insufficient for us to proclaim that it goes beyond the median or historical norm.
We cannot underemphasize the usefulness of design patents. And while some would lament that the rights provided by a single design patent are ‘unsatisfactory,’ its benefits far outweigh its disadvantages. Moreover, a creator or business can obtain a design patent within six to nine months of application, provided the applicant works with a competent and experienced patent lawyer in Brooklyn NY.
If acquiring some protection is essential for an overall marketing plan, it’s best to acquire some protection sooner than the two to three years it will likely take to secure a utility patent. Moreover, design patents are beneficial for many reasons. For instance, an inventor can hold dozens of design patents on a single product. Imagine forty different design patents to cover a single product.
What Qualifies for Protection Under a Design Patent?
Let’s review the essentials of a design patent in the US. When we say “protectable design,” we refer to the visual or ornamental characteristics of a single item, object, or article. For example, suppose we examine the difference between a butter knife and a serrated steak knife.
Both are knives, and both have a similar function (cutting/slicing), but their appearances couldn’t be any more different. Yes, both have handles and a measure of carbon steel or stainless steel, but the visual appearances are markedly different. The visual differences will persist even if you take the same objects from the same brand or knife line.
Design patents protect an object’s visual appearance, but not its mechanical aspects and functions. So, for example, you can apply for a design patent for intricate knife engravings identifying a new knife line as coming from your brand. Still, you can’t prevent other manufacturers from creating similar implements that cut and slice. Bearing this in mind, many knives can receive different design patents despite the ubiquitous nature of the handle and blade design (i.e., their functionality within the configuration of a knife).
Inventors typically want to safeguard the functionality of their inventions wherever feasible.
When an inventor obtains a utility patent, they can prevent others from importing, selling, using, and making into the US any product that is functionally covered by the granted patent. Once granted, patents have specific claims that help protect the product. These claims are active regardless of whether the object or device resembles what you are creating or the drawings in a current application for a patent.
Utility patents have historically been more desirable, potent, and far-reaching than design patents. But what if the innovation cannot be granted a utility patent because the USPTO deems that there is no functional uniqueness?
Your product is visually distinct from anything previously accessible, yet it performs and is structured identically to other similar products. This is the moment that you enter the domain of design patents.
The subject of design patent applications can involve shapes and configurations or the surface ornamentation in an object or article.
An ornamental surface design is inseparable from the object and cannot exist independently. The ornamental design must apply a distinct surface decoration pattern to the article. In other words, a design patent will only cover the appearance of an object, not its functionality.
Inventors should still consider design patents even article structure is unique and a utility patent is viable. For example, if your invention has a unique visual appearance, you can apply for design and utility patents.
That’s two large layers of IP protection for your invention. Legally, IP lawyers call this “overlapping protection,” and this protection can be a determining factor in crucial situations where a person’s intellectual property rights are at stake. For example, suppose your invention is likely to be the object of desire of counterfeiting entities here or abroad. In that case, you can block these nefarious individuals/groups from copying your invention.
Not many inventors know that a design patent can protect even a graphical user interface or GUI. For example, did you know that Google obtained a design patent for the Google homepage on September 1, 2009?
They filed the design patent on March 6, 2006. Google’s approved design patent-protected their homepage from imitators. In addition, the design patent will protect the Google homepage for 15 years from the date it was granted.
An article may be granted design and utility patents if the invention lies in its function and aesthetic appeal. Consider, for instance, a shoe. If you created a distinctive appearance for a pair of sneakers, you might apply for and receive a design patent with the help of a patent lawyer Brooklyn NY .
Suppose the shoe performs mechanically differently, maybe by drastically lowering the impact felt by the wearer because of the unique sole material. In that case, the sneaker might also be covered by a utility patent, as the innovation would also have a functional component. However, a design patent alone would not protect the sneaker’s functionality.