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A Beginner’s Guide to Design Patents

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While companies might understand that utility patents help to protect the uses of a product and its technical aspects, they might be unsure what a design patent is and what it protects. Design patents protect how a product looks and its aesthetic features. While companies might not think that it is important to protect how their products look, they should recognize that the aesthetic appeal of products is a crucial component of their value. In some cases, it may be a good idea for companies to consider pairing design and utility patents for better protection of their intellectual property.

How does a design patent differ from other patents?

Determining whether a design patent or utility patent is needed to protect intellectual property is difficult for many people. This is because it can be difficult for people to distinguish between the appearance and utility of an invention. However, both types of patents protect different aspects of the invention. For example, if a product provides a competitive advantage because of its unique design of an established technology, a utility patent would not be appropriate because the underlying technology’s use has not been changed. However, the company could secure a design product to protect its intellectual property. Companies that sell personal goods may find design patents to be critical for protecting their intellectual property.

Pairing design and utility patents

Novel intellectual property may combine important aesthetic and functional features. This situation might make it important for a company to apply for both a utility and a design patent for one product. Companies do not need to choose between them, and in many industries, pairing design patents and utility patents is standard. If consumers choose products based on both how they look and how they function, pairing design and utility patents for the products may be important to provide adequate protection for the company’s intellectual property.

In some cases, a utility patent may be required for an element of the design if it provides an important utility function. An experienced patent attorney Dallas Texas at Badmus & Associates can provide guidance about these types of issues.

How long do design patents last in the U.S.?

Design patents that were issued in the U.S. based on design patent application dates before May 13, 2015, lasted for 14 years. However, for design patents based on patent application dates of May 13, 2015, or later, the period of protection is 15 years. Design patents do not have maintenance fees or additional filings to receive the full 15 years of protection. They cannot be renewed.

Filing requirements for design patents

A design patent application must include a minimum of seven figures that demonstrate the design that the company wants to claim. These figures must be three-dimensional and show the front, back, right and left sides, top, and bottom of the design. Additional figures can be used to show parts of the design that cannot be expressed within the seven figures. As with applications for utility patents, all of the figures must adhere to the drawing requirements of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Photographs cannot be used. The best method is to use mechanical drawings and then hire a draftsman who understands the rules of the USPTO to convert them to the appropriate format. This can help to prevent the drawings from being rejected by the patent examiner.

If the design’s inventor is working with a patent attorney Dallas, the inventor will be required to sign a declaration and a power of attorney to authorize the Dallas patent attorney to act on the inventor’s behalf. If the design has been licensed to a company or the inventor works for a company, the inventor will sign an assignment of the design’s ownership to the company.

Costs of a design patent

The USPTO’s fees for design patents have increased and are expected to continue being increased. The current filing fees for design patents are $530. Small entities with fewer than 500 employees and inventors who have not assigned their designs to companies with 500 or more employees will be charged one-half the amount under the U.S. Patent Act. Inventors and companies should also account for the professional fees of patent attorneys in Dallas and the fees charged by draftsmen. These fees can range from $1,500 to $3,000 based on the application’s complexity.

Who can file a design patent application?

Inventors of designs can file the applications for design patents. The USPTO does not require that an inventor live in the U.S. or have a U.S. address to file a design patent application. An inventor can also retain a design patent attorney Dallas TX who is registered and authorized to act on the inventor’s behalf before the USPTO. U.S. attorneys and foreign lawyers who are not registered cannot represent clients before the USPTO.

General timeframe for securing a design patent

The time it takes to secure a design patent will vary. Inventors should anticipate that it will take from 12 to 18 months after their applications are filed until the patents are allowed by the USPTO. Once the patent is allowed, the inventors can decide whether they want to pay the issuance fees. If the issuance fees are paid, the patents will be sent within one to two months.

Get help from a Dallas patent attorney

Filing for a design patent can be a complex process. If mistakes are made, the inventor’s application may be denied. The filing fees are nonrefundable, meaning that a denied application will force the inventor to start the process over. Working with a registered patent attorney at Badmus & Associates can help companies and inventors to avoid mistakes and make the process smoother. Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling 214-393-4917.

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