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.
The Definition of a Design Patent
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.
Filing a Design Patent Application
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:
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.
The term of a design patent will depend on when the application was filed. For applications filed on or after May 13, 2015, the term of a design patent is 15 years from the day that the patent is granted. Any applications filed before May 13, 2015 will enjoy patent protection for a term of 14 years.
Getting Legal Help
While legal representation is not required for filing a design patent application, having knowledge of patent law and the practices and procedures of the USPTO are helpful in securing the best patent protection for your invention. An experienced patent attorney can make sure that you provide all the required elements for a design patent application and properly file your patent application so that you receive full protection for your invention.
For more information and resources related to patents and other types of intellectual property, you can visit FindLaw's section on Intellectual Property.