The purpose of a patent is to protect the creator of a unique and unambiguous design. It’s not possible, for example, to patent obvious shapes, such as state outlines. The national office that handles patents is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The United States Patent and Trademark Office must evaluate the information filed to determine whether the design is obvious, novel, or useful.
A design patent is a type of patent that specifically protects the appearance of an item but not its structure or function. Design patents are a variety of industrial design rights, which is a right of intellectual property to defend the image of a design. Utility patents are a secondary variety of patents, which are handled a little differently. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights are all distinct categories.
A utility patent is a type of patent that protects how an item is used or how it functions, while a design patent protects the way an item appears or looks. These are two distinct patent categories; however, both can be acquired for an item if the look and function of the item are new or inventive. It’s important to note that it’s quite hard to separate the appearance and utility from each other. One of the best ways to separate these two distinct categories is to determine whether the appearance or shape of the item is directed by its function. If the design is purely ornamental – it can be just one portion of the item or the whole item – then its design could be considered separately from its utility.
Design patents are sanctioned by a term of 14 years, while utility patents are valid for a 20-year term. There are no maintenance fees associated with design patents.
When further distinguishing between the two varieties of patents, design patents additionally differ in that they are only concerned with what is shown in the drawings. Independent design patents must be filed separately, as one claim cannot support separate designs. A design is considered independent if no part of it is related to another design. Still, those designs that are modifications on a design iteration can be submitted together in one claim.
The drawings in a design patent application are important because they indicate the particular design being considered. For a utility patent, this part of the process is different. Rather than a drawing or drawings of a design, a claim is described in minute detail and is meant to protect the function of the item.
For a design patent, the drawing serves as the description of the item being claimed. Drawings or photographs may be used at this stage and should be of the utmost quality to ensure that there is no confusion on the patent. The drawings should be a clear indication of the unique design. If they aren’t clear or detailed enough, misunderstandings or a defective acknowledgment of the design may occur, leading to the inability to receive a patent on the design.
For a new patent to be issued, the item must be considered unique and useful in design, creation, or in the content of the item or process. This means that whatever is being patented must be a completely new and helpful invention.
Items considered artistic, such as paintings, sculptures, or musical compositions, do not fall under the category of things that can be patented. Those are items that would be subject to copyright instead. Unique food recipes, however, are different. Such items that are abstract or natural concepts are also not patentable, but this can be difficult to discern, and frequently the Patent Office and courts have a trying time with this distinction.
There are many distinct and important reasons to seek out a patent. Some of those reasons include:
Patents help protect your proprietary information and unique inventions. Obtaining a patent helps assure that you’re the only entity that can use that item unless permission is received. If you intend to benefit from the unique items you offer, sell, or promote, then a patent can be the right choice for you.
It’s certainly possible to write and submit a patent on your own. However, with the keen eye of a skilled attorney, the process can be quicker and much easier to navigate. Patents are frequently unsuccessful in the courts due to errors that can be corrected with the help of a lawyer.
For example, when the parameters are too broad, a patent will likely fail. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced eye assisting you with the process. A framework that is too narrow can also have negative consequences. If the scope is too narrow, the patent can be too limited for the item.
Due to the 2007 Supreme Court decision, 04-1350 KSR Int’l Co. v. Teleflex Inc., obtaining patents has become even more important. Because of this decision, the courts and Patent Office must acknowledge the concept of common sense when considering if an item or concept is patentable. This means they must consider whether the item in question is a matter of common sense or something that shows true novel invention. This can be incredibly difficult to determine, and the ruling on this case has made the waters more difficult to wade through.
Don’t leave your patent protections up to chance. The attorneys at Four Reasons Legal can help you with your patent filing to help you achieve the best possible outcome. Let us advocate for you and your inventions. contact our team today to schedule a consultation.