What is a design patent?

What is a design patent?

A design patent is a form of legal protection of the unique visual qualities of a product. A design patent may be granted if the product has a distinct configuration, distinct surface ornamentation or both. In other words, a design patent provides protection for the appearance of a product. However it does not protect the function of that product.

This means that:

  • In the United States, an item that is substantially similar to something that has the protection of a design patent may not be made, sold, offered for sale, exported, used or imported into the country.

  • In other countries, a registered design may act as an alternative to a design patent. For example, EUIPO (European Intellectual Property Office) offers registered design protection.

A design patent provides broader protection than a copyright. With a copyright, you have to prove that someone saw your original work and stole it. However, with a design patent, you only have to show that your original work and the copied version are the same. Furthermore, design patents also block similar designs, while copyright has more exact requirements for identity.

A design patent should not be confused with a utility patent, which safeguards an item’s unique way of operating or functionality. A design patent protects how an object looks.

If you have additional questions regarding utility patents, the patent process, or anything else, contact us here.


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