Design Patent Application Benefits: Can give you “Patent Pending” status quickly and even “Issued Patent” status with less cost than a utility patent application and can protect the look of the product.
Design Patent Application Risk: Because a design patent only protects the look of the product and not its function, a design patent generally works well against knock-offs but by making a competing product that does the same thing but looks different, a competitor can avoid the design patent and still compete.
Suggestion: Consider carefully whether a design patent application is right for your situation. Compared with utility patents, design patents are inexpensive and quick to issue, but their scope of protection is much different than a utility patent.
Detail: A design patent can protect the look of an invention but not its function or its structure. If all or part of your product’s three dimensional look is particularly unique and you want to protect that specific look, a design patent is the way to go. Design patent applications are less expensive than Utility patent applications because there is very little description of the invention. The invention is primarily shown only by the drawings, which must be formatted precisely for Patent Office requirements and so generally cost more than standard utility patent drawings. Remember, however, that design applications only very narrowly protect inventions and someone may make their product look only a little bit different and still get around the patent. The drawings of a design patent application must be carefully drafted to protect the design as broadly as is justified. Use of dashed lines, for example, to provide context for a part of the product without specifically limiting your design to that feature is one of the strategies that can be used to get broader protection from your design patent. Design patents expire 14 years from the date of filing and there are no maintenance fees or other government fees after the patent issue fees are paid.