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Differences Between Design Patents and Utility Patents

lawtrades design utility patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office grants three kinds of patent registrations to inventors and businesses. The first kind is highly specialized and only applies to individuals and businesses that work to engineer and discover new asexually reproducing plant species. The other two kinds are design patents and utility patents.

Both kinds of patent registrations help to protect an inventor or business’s intellectual property from infringement. Once granted, patent protections become enforceable in court and may remain in place for a number of years. But there are significant differences between the applications for these two types of patents. And it is important to understand the kinds of inventions each patent protects before choosing to file one or the other.

Utility Patents

Nine out of every ten patents issued annually by the USPTO are utility patents. These intellectual property protections help to safeguard unique products and processes that are neither plants nor designs of existing products or processes. In order to be eligible for a utility patent, a product or process must be novel, useful and non-obvious.

For example, when the first pour-in, electric coffee machine was created, it was protected by a utility patent. That patent protection allowed the inventor of the machine protection against infringement. Only after the patent expired could other manufacturers make and sell the same design unless granted permission by the inventor.

It is worth noting that if you are interested in securing utility patent protection that you may be able to file a provisional application to help secure a favorable filing date for up to a year before you file your formal non-provisional application. This option is not available for design patents. This provisional application will help against patent infringement.

Design Patents

Design patents apply to designs of existing products. It is critical that the design be inseparable from the product and capable of being reproduced. While its purpose may be ornamental, it cannot exist as ornamentation separate from the product itself. For example, the unique shape of a classic, glass Coca-Cola bottle has patent protection by a design patent. The shape of the bottle is ornamental in nature but cannot exist without the functional bottle structure.

Application Assistance Is Available

Filing a patent application as soon as your invention is prototyped is generally a smart, proactive choice. The longer you wait to file, the more “prior art” may surface that could keep your patent registration from being approved. In addition, your idea, product or design will remain vulnerable to patent infringement for as long as you wait to file.

The patent process is technical and can be tedious. It also requires a significant amount of detailed information, research and even drawings. Failing to fill out even a single element of your in filing a patent application completely and correctly may result in its rejection. If you have created a new product, design or patent-eligible idea, please consider reaching out to the team at LawTrades. We have extensive experience helping both individuals and businesses secure proper intellectual property protections and patent registrations. Our approach is affordable and efficient and we would be happy to help you navigate the patent application process.