Design Patent Law
There are three types of patents: design patents, utility patents, and plant patents. Utility patents are available for processes, chemicals, and machines. Plant patents are for the invention and asexual reproduction (reproduced by means other than from seeds) of a new and distinct plant. Finally, a design patent protects the design or unique appearance of a manufactured object. This article will focus on design patents, and more specifically, the elements of a design patent application.
It’s important to first understand what a design patent protects. A design is the “surface ornamentation” of an object, which can’t be separated from that object. The design can also be related to shape or configuration of an object. A design patent is available to those who invent a new and non-obvious ornamental design for an object. It’s important to understand that while the object and its design are inseparable, the design patent only protects the appearance of the object. Its functional or structural features will not be protected by a design patent.
In order to receive patent protection, an inventor is required to file an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). A person can file a provisional patent application in order to protect his or her invention while figuring out the specifics of the invention and thinking about whether or not to actually patent the invention. A non-provisional application starts the official examination process to determine if the particular invention is eligible for patent protection. Generally, a non-provisional patent application includes the description and claims of the invention, drawings (if necessary), a declaration or oath, and various fees.
The information you will need to provide for a patent application will vary according to what type of patent you are seeking. When you are seeking to obtain a design patent, you will need to include the following: (1) A preamble that states the applicant’s name, a title for the design, and a brief description of the intended use and nature of the object that the design is a part of; (2) A cross-reference to any other applications related to the design patent application; (3) A feature description as well a description of the figure(s) of the drawing; (4) Photographs or drawings of the design; and (5) A declaration or oath by the inventor.
You are only permitted to make a single claim within a design patent application, and you must make a statement regarding any federally sponsored research or development for the design. In addition to the application, you will also need to pay a filing, search, and examination fee to the USPTO.
The most important aspect of a design patent application is the drawing (or photograph) of the design that the person is seeking patent protection for. Thus, it’s imperative that all drawings (or photographs) included with the application are of the highest quality and conform to all the rules and standards required by the USPTO.