When you produce a new design for an existing product, you get a design patent. A design patent can be obtained by anyone. Because they don’t (and can’t) have a function, they’re different and easier to obtain than utility patents.
In addition, design patents are less expensive than utility patents. A design patent is only $220 to file, plus any additional fees. The normal fee for a patent is $410.
When a product’s appearance is critical to its success, design patents are essential. Design patents are limited to what is depicted in the drawing. Once the government grants the patent claim, everything depicted becomes protected. The sole stipulation is that the design must be subtle. Design patents necessitate some ingenuity.
You can apply for a design patent if you change the appearance or style of a product without changing its functionality. The Walt Disney Company could obtain a design patent for a Mickey Mouse toaster if they so desired. They’re making a one-of-a-kind but reproducible design. They were unable to obtain a utility patent because their product toasts the bread in the same manner as any other toaster.
In 1842, George Bruce, a typeface designer, received the first design patent. Since then, the government has only issued 600,000 design patents. Design patents haven’t always had a high perceived value. Companies now have far more control over the appearance of their products as a result of recent legal reforms, enhancing the value of design patents.
A design patent solely covers an article’s aesthetic look, not its structure or functional features. A design patent will not protect a design that is both practical and decorative (such as an ergonomic computer mouse design that makes the mouse more comfortable to use). Only a utility patent may protect such hybrid inventions (both attractive and functional). In other words, design patents offer significant protection to a product’s design when it was created to give it an aesthetic appearance. If a design was chosen for a product because it worked better or was less expensive to produce, a design patent will not protect that product’s design.
The term of a design patent is 15 years from the date of grant.
The test for evaluating whether a design patent is infringed has altered as a result of the Federal Circuit’s decision in Egyptian Goddess, Inc. v. Swisa, Inc. in 2008. Under the new criterion, all that is required is to assess if the accused product seems “substantially the same” as the original design to an average observer. The old test also required looking over the preceding art to figure out where the design’s “point of uniqueness” was, and then deciding whether the accused design included that point of novelty. While the Egyptian Goddess judgment eliminated the point of novelty portion of the test, the claimed infringer can still use previous art to prove that the accused product is not significantly similar to the patented design to an ordinary observer.
A design patent application is substantially easier to complete than a utility patent application. The specification is concise and follows a standard format. Only one claim is allowed, and it must be submitted in a certain format. Design patent drawings are similar to utility patent drawings, with the exception that design patent drawings are prepared to demonstrate the decorative characteristics of the invention rather than its utilitarian qualities.
The Patent and Trademark Office will send a notification of allowance to the applicant’s patent attorney if the application is allowed. A fee will be required for the issuance of the patent, just as it is for a utility patent. The design patent issue charge, on the other hand, is just around one-third of the utility patent issue fee. It is not essential to pay any maintenance fees to keep a design patent active.
Design patents and copyrights
Both design patents and copyrights protect item aesthetics. For non-utilitarian articles, copyright is commonly utilized (meaning articles that exist only for their looks and not for their usefulness). Paintings, melodies, novels, and sculptures are examples of non-utilitarian articles covered by copyright. Copyright applies to utilitarian articles, but only to the extent that the article’s aesthetic features can exist independently of the content. A sculpture that serves as the foundation of light or a painting that is applied to the side of a car is both examples of this.
Design patents are used to protect a utilitarian object’s new decorative elements. When the ornamental features of an object cannot be separated from its utilitarian function, a design patent can protect the ornamental features, although copyright protection cannot. A design patent, for example, may cover the appearance of a computer CPU case, which would not be protected under copyright law. However, if a feature’s ostensibly “aesthetic” nature is controlled by practical motivations (for example, the sleekness of some automotive elements designed to reduce wind resistance), that feature can only be protected by a utility patent. As a result, even if the feature serves a utilitarian purpose, its appearance cannot be driven by utilitarian concerns.
Design patents and trademarks
A product’s or container’s shape can act as a source indicator and thus be protected as a trademark. A design patent may also be applied to the same product shape. As a result, dual protection under design patent and trademark laws may be possible. Naturally, the “protection” provided by the two statutes is vastly different. A third party cannot make, sell, or use a product with the protected design due to design patents. To infringe on a design patent, the infringing container and the design patent’s container shape must appear identical to the untrained eye. What is inside the container makes no difference. Under trademark law, the infringing container must be such that it causes consumer misunderstanding, error, or deceit. This calculation will, of course, take into consideration what was sold within each container. In addition, judges considering a trademark infringement case would consider the buying habits of the general public as well as each manufacturer’s sales strategies.
Computer Technologies and Design Patents
Design patents are a useful tool for protecting new computer hardware and peripheral designs. New, original commercial designs for items can be secured for a little cost, prohibiting a competitor from creating a product that looks identical to one already on the market. A patent on the appearance of a computer monitor (such as the Acer displays), CPU boxes (such as the early Macintosh systems), or peripherals is an example of a design patent for the computer industry (such as the look of a Global Village modem).
Apple Inc. has used design patents extensively to safeguard its cutting-edge industrial innovations. Apple, for example, has a slew of design patents protecting the aesthetic of its iPhone and the iOS operating system’s user interface. In one case, Apple obtained a $1 billion decision against Samsung, partly because Samsung’s devices infringed on Apple’s design patents, which safeguard the aesthetic of the iPhone.
Patent attorneys are broadening the use of design patents by filing for protection on software displays, in addition to the conventional uses for design patents. Design patents have already been issued for icons that show on computer screens, and their applications will continue to grow.