Design patent protection is appropriate for any new, original, and ornamental design for articles of manufacture. The statute in the Patent Act providing for design patent protection is 35 U.S.C. 171. Often, inventors can be confused by the difference between design patents and utility patents.
Generally, design patents protect the appearance of a new invention. Valid design patent protection can be used to prevent competitors from making products that copy the “look” of protected inventions. Conversely, utility patent protection is appropriate to protect the function of new, useful inventions. Fortunately, when a new invention embodies both new and useful functionality together with new ornamental design features, an inventor may obtain both design and utility patent protection for the same invention.
Indeed, design patent protection may be possible even where an inventor fails to obtain utility patent protection for an invention. Thus, design patent protection combined with utility patent protection is an excellent way to obtain comprehensive coverage for new inventions; design patent protection supplements overall intellectual property value.
If you have questions about design patents, or patent protection in general, contact one of the patent attorneys at Mohr Intellectual Property Law.