They're not just for inventions! You can get a U.S. patent on the exterior, ornamental design of an article of manufacture.
Design patents aren't very commonly known, but they can provide very valuable protection for the exterior appearance of a product that you've designed in a unique way.
What's a design patent exactly?
A design patent protects the ornamental design (meaning, the way something looks) of an "article of manufacture" (a product, basically).
It lasts for 15 years from the date of filing. The holder of a design patent can exclude competitors from making, selling, using, or importing any products where an ordinary observer, seeing one design, would suppose it to be the other. Basically, it's yet another way to prevent copying - if you get your design patent on file first.
What kinds of products are eligible for design patent protection?
Cups, computer mice, pitchers, watches, headphones, sunglasses, electronics, clothing, furniture, silverware, lamps, vases, graphical user interfaces on computer screens - pretty much anything, actually.
Are design patents important?
They can be. Apple won a $1 billion verdict against Samsung a few years ago, and 90% of the damage award was based on Apple's design patents. It was the biggest award in the history of patent cases.
In general, design patents can be a really good way to protect the outside appearance of an object.
Can my product be eligible for both a design patent and a utility patent at the same time?
Sure! Have a look at this pitcher.
I think that says it all.
What are some of the main advantages of having a design patent?
Having 15 years or so to exclude competitors from copying your design is a pretty sweet deal. Other remedies, like lost profits, are also available.
Can I file a provisional design patent application before I file my regular one?
That would be nice, right? But, no - provisional applications only exist for utility (invention) patents. The design patents are all or nothing.
I've heard about "industrial designs." What are those?
Industrial design protection and design patent protection are basically the same thing; they just give it different names in different countries.
What kinds of design patent services does Spectrum IP offer?
Sure, let's talk about that! You can get in touch using the contact page.