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.

USPTO to Update Rules of Professional Conduct

USPTO to Update Professional Conduct Rules

New rules will correspond to the ABA and most state bar requirements

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced last week its proposal to update the USPTO Code of Professional Responsibility to conform to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association (ABA), versions of which have been adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Specifically, the proposed rules will streamline practitioners’ professional responsibility obligations, bringing USPTO obligations in line with most practitioners’ state bar requirements. The package also proposes to eliminate the annual practitioner maintenance fee.

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To get an idea of the proposed changes, view this comparison chart of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the proposed USPTO Rules of Professional Conduct.  More information regarding the package is located on the USPTO’s website at: www.uspto.gov/ip/boards/oed/ethics.jsp.

The USPTO is seeking public comments on the proposal for a period of 60 days, ending December 17, 2012. This proposed rule package adopts most ABA provisions wholesale or with minor revisions and codifies many professional responsibility obligations that already apply to the practice of law.

The USPTO requests that comments be sent either by email to:

or by regular mail to:

  • Mail Stop OED-Ethics Rules, United States Patent and Trademark Office, P.O. Box 1450, Alexandria, Virginia 22313-1450, marked to the attention of William R. Covey, Deputy General Counsel for Enrollment and Discipline and Director of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline.