In the United States, a unique design patent is a kind of legal protection granted mainly to an ornamental design. Such design patents are also a kind of commercial design right granted to specific artistic designs. Ornamental designs of furniture, jewelry, drink bottles and computer icons are all examples of items which are covered by such design patents.
Design patents are different from utility patents which are granted for the commercial manufacture and sale of the tangible products. The USPTO recognizes a number of classes of patents that are based on different aspects. These classes include plant patents, machine patents, utility patents and design patents. Each class of patent has distinctive characteristics that differentiate it from utility patents.
Designs patents were first introduced in the US by patents authorized by the President. Since utility patents are regarded as perpetual as they cannot be revoked, the USPTO opted to grant design patents instead. Utility patents allow the holder to extract value from an invention regardless of whether any improvements are made subsequent to the time of application. On the other hand, a design patent only allows the owner to extract value when the invention is made, regardless of whether the improvements are subsequently used.
Obtaining a design patent costs a lot more than obtaining a utility patent. This is because the procedure involves more steps and paper works. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that the claims made within the patents are original. If any part of the invention does not follow from the description or if the claims are not legitimate, the USPTO will likely reject the application.
The USPTO looks down on inventions that are mere replicas of utility patents that already exist. In most cases, an invention must incorporate some new feature or benefit in order to qualify for a design patent. Additionally, an invention cannot be patented merely because it is new. If an invention that is already exists is modified substantially, it can still be patented. For example, if an apple product is made thinner and lighter, it will most likely be found eligible for a design patent.
If an invention is found eligible for a utility patent, it means that the product or technology described in the invention meets all of the USPTO’s requirements for patentable subject matter. These requirements include: it must have existed for at least one year; it must have been created solely for the purposes of pursuing patent rights; it should be obvious to others who have used it; it should enable people to do what it says that it does. While utility patents limit application of the rights to specific uses, design patents may cover any use that would be useful to a person skilled in the art of creating the item. Design patents do not need to cover the entire item; only the unique contribution to the creation is targeted by the patent.