When do you need a design patent?
How does a design patent differ from a utility patent?
A design patent differs from a utility patent in that the design patent only protects the aesthetics of the product and not its function. You cannot use a design patent to protect the functional features of your product.
Industries in which design patents are most common:
- Any industry where sellers often copy others’ products. Amazon, for example, is full of products that would benefit from design-patent protection or prosecution.
- Replacement parts business, like for car parts (e.g. wheel rims).
- Disposables. You want people to buy your disposable glove, trash bag, light bulb, toner cartridge, and not a knock-off product. If you get a design patent on that, then no one else can legally make and sell one that looks like yours.
When should you get an experienced patent attorney to help on your design patent?
The best time for an attorney to parachute in is right after the inventor has made a 3D-computer-generated model of the product. Before that they will need some agreements so that the engineers that designed the product will not leak any sensitive information. For example, an invention assignment agreement will be required to assign their invention rights to the inventor.
Common mistakes people make when pursuing their design patent pro se
The most common mistake that inventors make when they seek design patent protection for their product is to use a design patent to try to protect functional features of their product.
Design patents do not protect functional features, but rather only the aesthetics of a product. Many inventors are drawn to the relatively low cost of a design patent (compared to a utility patent) and assume that the design patent will be good enough. Not only would that fall short of protecting the functionality of the product, but it also would most likely fail to protect any design features. Attempting this sort of half-measure is a complete waste of money.
The other mistake that people make when they pursue a design patent is that they think that a design patent will protect the general look shown in the drawings of the design patent. However, a design patent protects only the specific look shown in the drawings.
Helpful resources on design patents
Consult with me
Let’s discuss your invention and goals. I am based in Orange County and work with inventors throughout the United States. You can call me, patent attorney James Yang, at (949) 433-0900, or book a consultation here.