The next major category of patents is the DESIGN PATENT that is issued for a new, original, and ornamental design of an article of manufacture. This grant allows the owner the exclusive rights that will prevent others from making, using, or selling the design for a period of fourteen years from the date of patent grant.
The USPTO defines design as follows: “ A design consists of the visual ornamental characteristics embodied in, or applied to, an article of manufacture. Since a design is manifested in appearance, the subject matter of a design patent application may relate to the configuration or shape of an article, to the surface ornamentation applied to an article, or to the combination of configuration and surface ornamentation. A design for surface ornamentation is inseparable from the article to which it is applied and cannot exist alone. It must be a definite pattern of surface ornamentation, applied to an article of manufacture”.
A few salient features of design patents are listed here:
- The patentee need not pay the maintenance fees that are mandatory in the case of utility patents.
- With a design patent, the ornamental exterior of an invention is protected and not any of its functional aspects, which would come under the purview of utility patent.
- If an invention is has both functional and ornamental characteristics, it can be awarded a design as well as a utility patent if the patentee so desires. In this case, a design patent will safeguard the special features of a functional device.
- A design can be granted a design patent, and also be protected by a trademark.
- If a design consists of exterior ornamentation only, it must be shown in drawings as applicable to the relevant item, and the item itself should be drawn in dotted lines, since it does not form a part of the claimed design.
A design patent application, when filed in the USPTO along with a filing fee, search fee and examination fee, will include the following features:
- Preamble: Name of applicant, title of design, description of the nature and intended use of the article which embodies the design
- Cross-references to related applications
- Statement about sponsored research or development.
- Description of the figure(s) of the drawing;
- Description of the features
- A single claim
- Drawings or photographs
- Executed oath or declaration.