Do you know the difference between a utility patent and design patent?

One of the common questions asked by those looking to patent an idea or invention is: What is the difference between a utility patent and design patent? It is a good question and the answer is an important one to understand for all patent or would be patent holders.

First, it’s helpful to know the definitions of both types of patents. A utility patent is defined as an invention that is useful or that has beneficial or practical utility. In other words, it must have a use or function in the real world. Some examples of this might be machines or tools, whether they are mechanical, hand-operated or electrical. This also includes functional improvements on machines or processes.

So what is a design patent? A design patent is anything that improves the style or fashion of an already existing invention. That is to say anything that doesn’t change or improve the function of an object, but does change the look or style. Some examples of this might be a design that simply changes the shape of an existing object. This also includes non-obvious ornamental designs.

How do you tell the difference when considering which patent is right for you? The following are a set of good questions to ask yourself.

  • Are you trying to patent the way something looks, or the way something is used?
  • Does your invention already exist in the marketplace in some form? If so, is your improvement one of usability?
  • If your improvement is not one of usability, does it improve the design and look of the invention?

Remember, some inventions may qualify for both types of patents. You can always contact us for more information. We can put you in touch with an attorney and help to get you started on the right path. We work closely with some of the best IP law firms in the United States and internationally.

Finally, a good short hand way of remembering the difference between the two types of patents is to think of eye glasses. If you had invented bifocal lenses, your invention would require a utility patent, since these lenses change the way eyeglasses function. However, if you had invented the Coke-bottle style of eyeglass frames, that would require a design patent, as they change the way glasses look but do not affect their usability.

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