A design patent protects the appearance of an article, not its structural or utilitarian features. A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation. In the United States, designs can be protected through design patents, trade dress, and copyrights. Patent Law provides for the granting of design patents to any person who has invented any new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
Design patents are increasingly recognized as valuable components of an intellectual property portfolio. Design patents are effective in protecting the ornamental appearance of products, acting as a deterrent to direct selling or offering to sell copies (knock-offs) of the protected article. Businesses recognize that it is not only necessary to protect the functioning of a product, but also the look of the product.
A design patent generally costs less than a utility patent and takes substantially less time to prosecute in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Thus, design patents represent an effective deterrent to competitors from entering a market by mimicking the design of a successful product. The owner of an infringed design patent may recover monetary damages from the infringing party, as well as seek injunctive relief.
As with utility patents, the value of a design patent depends on the claimed subject matter. Consequently, it is essential to have skilled counsel prepare the design patent application. ESF includes an in-house Drafting Department that prepares drawings for design patent applications to guarantee compliance with the specific requirements of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. U.S. design patent drawing requirements are generally more stringent than those in other countries, and we have extensive experience adapting drawings and images from foreign origin design applications to meet U.S. standards while preserving priority.
Our professionals counsel clients on the full range of design patent protection opportunities, including: preparing, filing, and prosecuting design patent applications at the USPTO; and offering opinions on patentability, freedom to use, validity, and infringement. We further coordinate with our network of foreign associates to seek industrial design protection abroad.