Hi. My name is Mark Trenner and I’m a patent attorney. I started my law firm in 2004, that is over 10 years now that I’ve been helping individual inventors, start-ups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. I’ve written hundreds of patent applications in the over 15 years I’ve been registered as a patent attorney with the patent office.
Today I’m here to answer your question, what is a design patent. A design patent protects what’s called the unique ornamental appearance of an invention. A utility patent, which is what most people think of when they think of a patent, protects the function, regardless of what it looks like. If it functions the same as what is claimed in the patent, then it is an infringing device. A designed patent protects what something looks like. The best example I can give is for example, the electric lightbulbs have been out there for over a hundred of years and there is nothing patentable about the basic electric lightbulb but you may still be able to get a patent for the light. And, what you would do is apply for a design patent for the way that light looks. Think about it, if you’ve ever walked into the lamp section of a hardware store, there are hundreds of different styles of lights. If you have a new and unique light, you can actually apply for a design patent. Now, design patents are fairly narrow. They just cover the one look and it isn’t going to prevent someone from making another light. That is why you see so many of them in the hardware store but it will prevent somebody from copying your design of the light. A design patent will cover what something looks like. The utility patent covers how it functions and you can actually apply for both a utility patent and a design patent for the same invention if it has a unique function, even though that is probably not the case with the basic light but some inventions, the function is new and what it looks like is new, so you could apply for both the utility patent to protect the function and a design patent to protect what it looks like.
My name is Mark Trenner. I am a patent attorney and I hope that I’ve answered your question of what is a design patent.