While design patents protect the ornamental or non-utilitarian features of an invention, utility patents protect the way a product functions or is made. Put another way, a design patent protects the appearance of a particular product but not the underlying utility. In certain circumstances, it is possible and recommended to pursue both design and utility patents to properly protect all the novel features of a product.
Other differences between a design patent and a utility patent may affect your decision to choose one or the other. Typically a design patent is less expensive to draft and prosecute with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Furthermore, the USPTO does not charge maintenance fees during the term of the patent. Design patents, however, have a term of fourteen years from the date of grant, while utility patents have a term of twenty years measured from the filing date of the application.
In addition to the options of a design patent and utility patent, the intellectual property attorneys at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll counsel their clients on the availability of trademarks, trade dress, trade secrets, and copyrights to place a legal barrier around each client’s intellectual property. If you would like to discuss any of the forms of protection for your invention or idea, please contact one of the intellectual property attorneys.