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Design Patents

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Tuesday, April 7, 2009 by Jim Ruttler

Design patents are a special kind of patent that protects the ornamental features of an existing article. For instance, a design patent might cover uniquely shaped sunglasses, tire tread, or drink bottle even though the underlying product may be well known. Design patents are therefore different from the more common utility patents because utility patents protect the underlying product or process regardless of any ornamentalities.

A recent study by Dennis Crouch of PatentlyO.com found that of 1000 design patents issued in March of 2009, only around 25% received a rejection during examination. While this doesn’t consider the number of rejections that are received for abandoned design patent applications, it does show that design patents are significantly more likely to register and have a smooth examination than utility patents. Initial rejections in utility patent applications can approach over 80% for many art units like ecommerce. Moreover, the study shows that design patents are issuing in approximately 15 months after filing, which is very quick as the USPTO goes.

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