Main differences between a utility patent and design patent

After receiving a lot of emails asking for more information on design and utility patents, I decided to write a short article which I hope answers some of your questions.

The United States Patent Office offers two main types of patents: utility patents and design patents. If you’re considering patenting your intellectual property, invention, or idea, it’s important to understand the difference between a utility patent and design patent. A utility patent is used to protect the function or goal of an invention, while a design patent is focused more on the method of achieving that goal than the goal, itself.

Utility patents

These are the most common types of patents and, while they’re more expensive than design patents, many people believe they offer better invention protection. Utility patents can provide protection for the function of an invention, as well as similar other variations, such that other competitors who are considering similar products will have a difficult time creating a similar product or invention without infringing on the patent.

Unfortunately, as well as being more expensive, these patents also take longer to procure than design patents. While the patent is in the process of being filed, which is generally a couple of years, a provisional patent can be issued for temporary protection, allowing you to use “Patent pending” when discussing your invention, which offers a very basic, fundamental level of deterrence for competitors.

Design patents

Design patents cover the appearance of a product or the specific design, rather than the function, goal, or utility of an invention. These patents are cheaper and quicker to procure than utility patents, but they do not cover any functional aspects of the invention. It’s also more difficult to patent variations on design than it is to patent variations on function.

Filing for both types at once

It’s possible to have a situation where you’ll want to file one of each type of patent. These situations might be for new inventions that achieve a novel goal by novel means and have a unique design. One relatively famous example where patents of each type were filed for the same invention was for the iPad.

Contact us for more assistance or a consultation on patenting your design or invention.

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.

Design or Utility?

There are two main types of patents granted by the U.S. Patent Office: design patents and utility patents.

Utility patents offer greater benefits than design patents.  Utility patents  protect the way an article is used and works.  Utility patents also allow many variations of the article to be claimed in one patent, making utility patents much more broad than design patents.  Utility patents can also be filed provisionally whereas design drawings cannot.

Design patents protect the appearance of the article.  Design patents are usually much cheaper than utility patents and are much easier to obtain.   If the main feature of you invention is the ornamental design, then a design patent is all you need to protect your invention.

We suggest you seek advice from a patent attorney to figure out which type of protection is best for your patent.