Utility Patent vs. Design Patent: Which is Right for Your Product?

plant in business office

Creating a new product is an exciting time for an inventor. You’ve put in the dedication, long hours, and it’s finally time to move forward with protecting your product from the competition. However, there are still important choices to be made when determining how to patent your product, most commonly: utility patent vs. design patent. Understanding the difference between utility and design patent will help you make the most informed choice.


Difference Between Utility and Design Patent

First, be sure to search the database of the US Patent Office to be sure another patent hasn’t already been filed.  Second, you need to establish what exactly you are trying to protect when it comes to your product and learn the difference between utility and design patent.  Is your product a new process, machine or manufacturing system?  If so, a filing a utility patent would be the next step.


If your product an original shape, surface or ornamentation to an existing product, though, filing a design patent is more advisable.


What Does a Utility Patent Cover?

A utility patent covers the use and function of a new product, prohibiting individuals or companies from making, using, or selling your invention without permission.  In the US, a utility patent – also known as a patent of invention – is usually good for up to 20 years once you apply. However, there may be various fees associated throughout the life of the patent.

Other considerations about a utility patent:

  • A utility patent may be useful for improvements in function or use of existing products
  • There are numerous categories of utility patients. However, the most popular utility patents fall into machines, processes, or articles of manufacture.
  • Once you’ve been issued a utility patent, you have the right to stop the manufacturing, use or sale of the invention.


What Does a Design Patent Cover?

Design patents cover the visual appearance of a functional product. Design patents are commonly used for furniture, jewelry, even computer icons, but any product that have unique configurations or surface ornamentation may benefit from a design patent. Unlike the utility patent, a design patent is only effective for 14 years. Keep in mind; design patents are not renewable.


Consult a Patent Attorney

LawTrades is an online legal service platform can connect you with the best patent attorney for your situation. The attorneys in our marketplace are thoroughly vetted and the most skilled in their area of specialization. Additionally, we offer a subscription-based legal plan that allows unlimited legal consultation and other perks such as $0 service fee and reduced hourly rates. If you suspect you’ll need ongoing legal help with your business, this could be a cost-effective solution.