What is a design patent?
USPTO grants design patent rights that cover the novel design aspects for a product without protecting the manufacture of such products or the product’s functional features. The claimed designs can be directed to any “ornamental designs,” such as distinctive surface ornamentations and product configurations.
Claimed designs can only cover the “visual characteristics embodied in or applied” to a product. For example, a particular shape of a chair can be protected by a design patent for the unique aesthetic value.
The Office states “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.”
The claimed design is “usually inseparable from the product to which it is applied and cannot exist alone merely as a scheme of surface ornamentation. It must be a definite, preconceived thing, capable of reproduction and not merely the chance result of a method.”
In plain words, this means that products can be legally protected in various ways. The functional properties can be protected by an Utility Patent. The non-functional aesthetic properties can be protected by a Design patent. Sometimes the circumstances dictate which option is available for inventors, depending on the state of the prior art, the available budget, and intended marketing strategies.
You can reach out if you need some consultation time with me to discuss what’s the best option for you.