A design patent protects a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. The design patent may protect the external shape of an object, the surface ornamentation of an object or some combination of both. To be granted a patent, the design must be novel and not obvious. An invention may be granted both design and utility patents.
A design patent must be filed in the United States within six months after any public disclosure or sale of the invention. The term of a design patent is fourteen years from the date the patent is issued. There are no maintenance fees required for a design patent. Design patent protection is not as strong as utility patent protection because if a competitor changes any part of the design, it is likely the competitor's design will not be considered to infringe. In addition, if the design has multiple embodiments, it may be necessary to file a design patent for each distinct design embodiment, which can become expensive.
Since the design patent is protecting the ornamental features of the invention, drawings for the design patent are critical and must show all the external features of the claimed design. Unlike the drawings of a utility patent, the design patent drawings often form the entire disclosure of the patent and they
must contain a sufficient number of views to constitute a complete disclosure.
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