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More on Design Patents

Jim Ruttler, Patent Attorney

Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009 by Jim Ruttler

A design patent is a special type of patent that protects ornamental designs of existing articles of manufacture. In other words, design patents protect the shape, ornamentation, or surface indicia of a product. For example, design patents would be appropriate for unique tire tread designs, bottle shapes, handbag shapes, and even computer mouse shapes. Once obtained, a design patent protects against the making, using, selling, and importing of similarly designed products.

There are few limitations to design patents. First, the design must obviously be new and cannot just be a minor modification to existing designs. Second, the design cannot be primarily functional. Third, design patents only protect the design of a product and not its underlying functionality.

A design patent can also be obtained in conjunction with a trademark registration, which can also be secured for unique product shapes. There are some differences between design patents and trademark registrations, but they can nicely overlap to enhance the protection of a unique product shape.

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