Design Patents

Sometimes an inventor may not be able to obtain a utility patent because there is no new function or structure to warrant a utility patent. Still if the shape is attractive by itself and commercially important, then the inventor may wish to apply for a design patent.

A design patent is very different from the more common utility patent. A design patent has a disclosure that is limited essentially to the drawings filed with the application. This form of protection is useful when an otherwise ordinary commercial product has a novel shape that that is distinguished by its ornamental or aesthetic appeal, as opposed to mere mechanical function.

Most of the effort in preparing a design patent application centers on high quality drawings that meet the rather specialized and stringent requirements. Unless the shape of the new design is similar to an existing product, much of the effort during the examination process involves formalities, usually concerning the drawings.

A design patent has a life of fourteen years and unlike a utility patent, no maintenance fees are required.