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U.S. Design Patents Explained

Written by Waheedan Jariwalla on 27 January 2010

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In general terms, a "utility patent" protects the way an article is used and works (35 U.S.C. 101), while a "design patent" protects the way an article looks. Both design and utility patents may be obtained on an article if invention resides both in its utility and ornamental appearance.

While utility and design patents afford legally separate protection, the utility and ornamentality of an article are not easily separable. Articles of manufacture may possess both functional and ornamental characteristics.

The elements of a design patent application should include the following:

(1) Preamble, stating name of the applicant, title of the design, and a brief description of the nature and intended use of the article in which the design is embodied;

(2) Description of the figure(s) of the drawing;

(3) Feature description (optional);

(4) A single claim;

(5) Drawings or photographs;

(6) Executed oath or declaration.

In addition, the required filing fee is also necessary. If applicant is a small entity, (an independent inventor, a small business concern, or a non-profit organization), the filing fee is reduced by half.

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