While industrial design patents used to be purely the domain of product forms and ornamentation, the technological era has added a number of essential and economically significant designs to those accepted by the US patent office each year. Tech space designs such as app icons or elements of a certain fruit-named company’s distinctive product identity, have become emblematic and essential for modern companies.
Navigating the design patent process is hardly self-evident, whether in traditional or modern spaces, though as experienced US patent attorneys we help clients apply for and receive design patterns every year.
What Qualifies As A Design Patent?
Before trying to submit a design patent in the US, it is important to understand what exactly qualifies as a design, much less one that can be subject to a patent.
US patent law defines design as “visual ornamental characteristics” that are either “applied to, or embodied in” an article of manufacture. This means it has to be an accentuation or modification of the appearance or shape of something and not a separate element on its own.
A design patent thus only protects such specific appearance, visual modifications, and so forth, and not, among other things, the specific product, how the product can be used, or the process of making the product.
Those can be protected by a US utility patent, which our attorneys also help clients in California and the US to apply for, and protect.
What Protections Does A US Design Patent Confer?
If you successfully apply for and receive a design patent on your design, it confers legal protections against others copying or using your design or one essentially similar to or indistinguishable from it. This prevents other individuals or companies from.
- selling a product with an identical or similar enough design
- using your design in their product
- importing a product from abroad with an identical or sufficiently similar design
However, the nuances of what exactly constitutes significantly different from a given design remain nebulous and are frequently debated and argued throughout some of the nation’s highest courts. The importance for most clients is knowing that should their innovative idea or design be copied, they can call on qualified patent attorneys to seek justice.
How Long Is A Design Patent Valid For In California?
As design patents are federal rather than state-enforced, the design patent will be valid throughout the US and not just in California, for 15 years. This means that all protections are valid for the entirety of that time, but afterward, will no longer be of any help.
It is also important to note that these protections start from the date of submission, not acceptance. So if you have a design you wish to patent, reach out quickly to get the help of US design patent attorneys to get the application correctly filed and submitted as quickly as possible.
Can I File A Design Patent For Entirely Digital Designs?
In the modern era of digital technology, sometimes a collection of pixels on a screen can be an essential component of a product’s identity and design. Luckily patent law in the US has evolved to protect some elements of digital design, necessary to many tech companies and start-ups in Fremont and beyond.
App icons, for example, have joined more classic designs like soda bottles or car hood ornaments, among the different designs protected by US patent law. If you are not sure whether your tech or digital design qualifies for a patent, the best step you can take is to reach out to our team of seasoned US patent attorneys for guidance.