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Design vs Utility, Which Patent Is Right For You?

The Difference Between Design Patents and Utility Patents at the USPTO

When protecting your intellectual property, choosing the right type of patent can make all the difference. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) offers two main types of patents: design patents and utility patents. Understanding the differences between these two patents can help you decide which one is right for your product or invention.

Utility Patents: Protecting Functionality

Utility patents are the most common type of patent intended to protect an invention's functional aspects. A utility patent covers how something works, what it does, and the specific use of an invention. This type of patent is most often used to protect functional inventions, such as a new tool, a machine, a process, or a composition of matter.

Design Patents: Protecting Aesthetics

On the other hand, design patents are intended to protect an object's unique appearance or ornamental design. This type of patent covers the visual appearance of a product, including the shape, configuration, pattern, or ornamentation that makes it visually appealing. Design patents are most often used to protect the appearance of a product, such as the design of a chair, the shape of a bottle, or the pattern on a piece of fabric.

Key Differences

One key difference between design and utility patents is the scope of protection. A utility patent provides broader protection and covers the functional aspects of an invention, while a design patent only covers the visual appearance. Additionally, design patents have a shorter lifespan than utility patents, lasting only 15 years from the date of grant compared to 20 years for a utility patent.

Another difference between the two types of patents is the examination process. The USPTO has more stringent requirements for utility patents, as they cover the functional aspects of an invention. This examination process is more complex and requires more detail than the design patents'.

Making The Right Choice

When deciding between a design patent and a utility patent, it is essential to consider the nature of your invention and what type of protection is most important to you. For example, a utility patent is the best choice if you want to protect your invention's functional aspects. However, if you are more concerned about the appearance of your product, a design patent is the better option.

Choosing between a design patent and a utility patent depends on your specific needs and goals. It is recommended to consult with a patent attorney to ensure that you make the right choice for your invention. With their expertise and guidance, you can ensure that your intellectual property is protected to the fullest extent possible.


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