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US design patents an introduction

Written by Tim Mount on 21 March 2010

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In the United states of America it is possible to obtain patent protection for designs. This is in contrast to the UK and Europe where it is possible to register a design on the Register.

Regarding US design patents we must look to the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) and in particular the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP), now in its Eighth Edition, last revised in 2008.

MPEP 1504.01 (Statutory Subject Matter for Designs) states that:

Whoever invents any new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

The language new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture as set forth in 35 U.S.C[ode]. 171 has been interpreted by the case law to include at least three kinds of designs:

(A) a design for an ornament, impression, print, or picture applied to or embodied in an article of manufacture (surface indicia);

(B) a design for the shape or configuration of an article of manufacture;

and

(C) a combination of the first two categories.

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