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Patent protection is generally available in three forms: utility patents, design patents and plant patents. Design patents are different from other types of patents because they provide protection for the unique design or appearance of an object without regard to the function of the object, whereas utility patents provide protection for the function of an object, among other things. To qualify for a design patent, the design must be “new, original and ornamental”, based on the eye of an ordinary observer.

A recent example of this was exhibited in 2012 when a jury found that Samsung infringed one or Apple’s design patents. Apple obtained a design patent on the shape of its phone, particularly the “home button, rounded corners and tapered edges”. Samsung developed a similar phone which was found to infringe on Apple’s design patent. Apple was awarded $1.049 billion dollars, of which $746 million was based on its design patent. Thus, a design patent can provide a great deal of protection and prove to be a worthwhile investment.

An advantage of design patents over utility patents is that the cost to obtain a design patent is significantly lower than the cost to obtain a utility patent. This is because a design patent has only one claim, embodied in the drawings of the patent application. Therefore, it takes much less time to draft a design application. In addition, the fees charged by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) are lower for a design patent application than a utility patent application.

An additional benefit of design patents versus utility patents is that a design patent is typically granted by the USPTO much quicker than a utility patent. While a utility patent can take up to three years to issue, a design patent may be granted in less than a year. Design patents are then effective for 14 years from the date the patent is granted.

Since the requirements for each type of patent are different, some objects are eligible for design patent protection and utility patent protection. For more information on design, utility and plant patents, please contact the attorneys at the Plus IP Firm.

See below for images showing some of the U.S. design patents that the Plus IP Firm obtained for its clients.

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